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Diagnostics Genetics and epigenetics, Software and hardware

It’s Better With Meta

When faced with an infectious disease, what’s your first step? Perhaps a culture, an immunoassay, or a PCR-based test? Unfortunately, conventional infectious disease diagnostics all have drawbacks – and if they take days to return results or only identify a few types of pathogen, what happens when they fail to reveal the culprit?

To address this issue, researchers have developed a new test that yields results in as little as six hours (1). “We can detect any infection from any body fluid, without special handling or processing,” said senior author Charles Chiu (2). How? By combining next-generation sequencing with analytical software that compares sample sequences to databases of pathogen genomes. “We think this one metagenomic test can potentially replace all PCR-based DNA tests,” Chiu optimistically concluded (2).

Credit: Elisabeth Fall.
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  1. W Gu et al., Nat Med, [Online ahead of print] (2020). PMID: 33169017.
  2. J Norris (2020). Available at:
About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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