Challenges in environmental detection of human viral pathogens

Timothy R. Julian, Kellogg J. Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There is substantial potential for human exposure to viruses in environmental matrixes. Identification of virally contaminated environmental reservoirs requires assays with sufficient sensitivity to detect low copy numbers of viral targets. However, low detection sensitivity frequently requires sample concentration during which inhibitors to downstream assays co-isolate with desired target. Conventional detection assays (e.g., cell culture, polymerase chain reaction) require a priori selection of appropriate cell lines or primers and probes based on the viruses anticipated to be present in the sample. This can underestimate exposure risks by excluding unidentified or unknown virus. Emerging methods including nonspecific adsorption/elution, filtration, and total nucleic acid sequencing, that are capable of concentrating, purifying, and detecting total virus and/or total virus nucleic acid will aid in estimates of exposure risk, source tracking, intervention efficacy, and evaluation of virus fate and transport. Development and implementation of novel virus detection techniques must integrate quality assurance guidelines to validate results and provide opportunities for interstudy comparison.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-83
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Virology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

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