The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a faster lab test for detecting enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) in specimens from patients suspected of having the enterovirus.
The new lab test is a “real-time” reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR), and it identifies all strains of EV-D68 seen this summer and fall. The new test has fewer and shorter steps than the previous test that has been used for the past 9 years.
This year, EV-D68 has been the most common type of enterovirus identified. Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said
“When rare or uncommon viruses suddenly begin causing severe illness, CDC works quickly to develop diagnostic tests to enhance our response and investigations. This new lab test will reduce what would normally take several weeks to get results to a few days.”
Since the outbreak of EV-D68 began in August, CDC has tested 1163 specimens submitted by hospitals and from 45 states. Of the specimens tested by the CDC lab from August 1 to October 10, 691 have tested positive for EV-D68. However, the CDC still has another 1000 samples to test and the new lab test will allow the CDC to process those specimens at a faster rate.
Most EV-D68 positive patients have been in children and many of them had asthma or a history of wheezing. To date, there have been 5 deaths linked to EV-D68.
CDC expects that EV-D68 infections will begin to decline by late fall. The real-time lab results combined with data on hospital admissions will help the CDC understand when and where the EV-D68 outbreak is ending.