MCG team develops panel to test for dozens of viruses at once

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Cold and flu season is here. It is possible to get sick with more than one virus at the same time (coinfection).

Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, his team at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) and biotech firm Illumina have developed a panel which tests for 41 viruses at once, including COVID-19, other coronaviruses, influenza and swine flu.

“We want to know if there is more than one virus involved in infections, especially in vulnerable communities like nursing homes, hospital ICUs or even when there’s a major gathering,” Kolhe explains.

The panel is only being used at MCG. It is administered similar to a COVID-19 test, in which a nose is swabbed or saliva is collected. Results are ready within three to five days.

“Something like this will add substantial value in not only diagnosing something that’s happening, but also identifying the correct therapy and containing the disease to that individual.”

“If you have a common cold or flu virus, the treatment is different,” he adds. “The treatment for COVID-19 is different. The treatment for flu is different. We need to know what is going on in the community.”

These results will help researchers learn how sick a person can get if they are infected with multiple viruses at once.

“We already know some people do better, and some people do bad. Maybe the additional viral infection on top of an existing COVID-19 infection will make them have a worse outcome, especially associated with comorbidities like hypertension and obesity.”

During the 2020 flu season, there were very few cases of coinfections. More people were wearing masks and social distancing. Kolhe expects there will be many more cases this year as these guidelines have relaxed.

“The prediction for this year is you are going to have baseline COVID in the community on top of one of these coinfections, which will start to pop up in December, January and February.”

This panel will also help researchers track where viruses are traveling and how they are mutating.

“The most important thing is if we know these trends….then better precautions will be taken.”

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