Globally, healthcare needs synthetic viruses

Written by By Lisa Nesselson, CNN

A demand has arisen for a new, universal testing method of flu vaccination.

But will patients actually use it? In time, experts say, synthetic viruses will certainly be needed to catch infectious diseases in the future, but for now there is no reliable test for determining the safe and effective amount of virus in a patient’s body.

“Unless you have a laboratory to produce some synthetic viruses, a lot of people who are resistant will skip the shots,” says Dr. Daniel Schultz, an emeritus professor of microbiology at Duke University, who is working on a new method to administer seasonal flu vaccines.

“It’s almost like trying to do an ethical experiment in which we show people you don’t need to kill them and hope that they will walk through the door to receive the dose,” he says.

As for how scientists will source synthetic viruses, most schools are turning to their science departments to find scientists who can make them.

“I would like to see synthetic viruses in classrooms in North Carolina, as opposed to having an emergency out of necessity,” says Schultz.

He has already come up with a design for a test that he believes will be popular in schools and clinics. It will take just a few minutes to give the teens who don’t use their flu shots and are at risk for infection.

“(We’ll) ask them if they have had the shot, then if they do not have the shot, ask them what level of virus they have … (and) measure the risk by recording the viral load in a blood sample at the same time,” he says.

Schultz will present the results of this research next week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

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