Introduction of Multiplex PCR for Gastrointestinal Viral Pathogens

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The National Virus Reference Laboratory will be introducing a multiplex PCR for viral gastrointestinal pathogens  from June 16th. 

The primary aim of the new assay is to improve the quality of the diagnostic service provided to patients and users. Seasonal screening for viral gastroenteritis in hospitalized patients should help to prevent outbreaks, avoid inappropriate investigations & treatments, inform hospital infection control policies, and reduce the risk of nosocomial spread. In addition, molecular testing (PCR) has overtaken Electron Microscopy (EM) as the test of choice for the diagnosis of viral gastroenteritis.

On introduction of the new assay, for a period of 4 months (June-September), all stool samples received in the NVRL will be tested for rotavirus, enteric adenovirus, norovirus, sapovirus, & astrovirus. The results of this trial period will inform the composition of our first testing algorithm, but it is expected that from October, stool samples from children <5yrs of age will continue to be tested on the full screen, whilst those from adults will only be tested for norovirus (with the option for additional testing on request). However, we would of course welcome your feedback on this approach, and its suitability for your institution. The new assay will be performed 3-4 times per week (depending on sample numbers) with an anticipated turnaround time of 2-3 days.

In addition to the new viral gastroenteritis assay, the NVRL is also currently developing a Rotavirus (RV) typing service. It is hoped that the data generated from this service will inform national strategies for the potential introduction of RV immunization, and ultimately feed into the regional Rotavirus surveillance programmes. Of note, this service will be available to our users who are already performing RV screening in-house, and they will be kept informed of its development.

If you have any questions or queries in relation to any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact the laboratory.