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HomeClinical Trials and ResearchA new test for diagnosing brain and spinal cord infections

A new test for diagnosing brain and spinal cord infections

Researchers have developed a new sequencing method to help diagnose acute brain and spinal cord infections.

Infections that affect the brain and spinal cord, such as meningitis and encephalitis, can lead to inflammation.

There are many possible causes of these diseases, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Symptoms are widely varied and can include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, and seizures.

In extreme cases, these infections can cause brain damage, stroke, or even death.

Diagnosing brain and spinal cord infections is challenging

In most cases, people with mild brain and spinal cord infections can make a full recovery, although the process may be slow. The existing methods to diagnose brain and spinal cord infections rely heavily on the physician’s ordering of tests, based on a patient’s history, clinical presentation, and imaging findings, followed by serial laboratory testing.

A single test to identify inflammatory neurological conditions

In a paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a group of researchers and clinicians at the University of California developed a new clinical metagenomic next-generation sequencing method that can identify a broad range of pathogens in a single test.

This powerful assay is capable of comparing unknown genetic material from a patient sample against many other known pathogen genomes.

To study the effectiveness of this breakthrough innovation in detecting patients with suspected meningitis or encephalitis, the researchers conducted a clinical trial at multiple hospitals, mostly located in California.

Out of 58 total diagnoses, the new sequencing method could identify more than 20% that were not able to be detected by standard clinical testing.

This study clearly showed how sequencing technology can generate positive clinical impacts on patients with inflammatory neurological conditions. The research team is planning further preclinical studies to determine the best timing for diagnoses.

Reference: Wilson, M.R. et al. Clinical Metagenomic Sequencing for Diagnosis of Meningitis and Encephalitis. The New England Journal of Medicine, 380(24):2327-2340. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1803396.

Man-tik Choy PhD
Man-tik Choy PhD
Man-Tik has a Ph.D. in Material Science and Engineering from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research focuses on pharmaceutical sciences, biomaterial design and development, and advanced manufacturing technologies. Man-Tik has developed a strong interest in knowledge discovery and sharing through his practical training in different joint research projects. He is excited to contribute to Medical News Bulletin and help the public to understand science more effectively. In his free time, Man-Tik enjoys reading novels and painting.
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