Saturday, September 29, 2012

Finding a new virus: Spit, sequencing and serendipity

September 28, 2012


The story of how Zambon's team got to this stage is one of smart scientific detective work, timely checking of emails and a bit of serendipity. But it starts right back at the basics, with a call from a worried doctor and some spit.
"Fresh secretions - basically sputum, or spit - were obtained" from the patient, Zambon explains, after an initial call from doctors treating the Qatari man caused scientists in her lab to be concerned he might have a rare infection.
"If you're a virologist in a laboratory like ours and handing clinical material, whether it be human on animal, you always have to be alive to the possibility that once in a while you might turn up something unusual," she said.
Maybe because of that, it happened that two key HPA scientists had both spotted a post on an internet-based reporting system called ProMED-mail - the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases.

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