CDC Develops Faster Test for EV-D68

New CDC lab test for enterovirus D68 to produce results in a matter of days, not weeks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The old test for enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) took weeks to produce results. But the new test the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed only takes a few days.

In response to the EV-D68 outbreak that has infected nearly 700 people in 46 US states in the last two months, the CDC has developed a new test for EV-D68.

CDC officials said they will test nearly 1,000 remaining lab samples for the virus to identify clusters of the disease and prevent its further spread.

“CDC has received substantially more specimens for enterovirus lab testing than usual this year, due to the large outbreak of EV-D68 and related hospitalizations,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a press release. “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.”

EV-D68 is one of more than 100 types of enteroviruses. While EV-D68 is a relatively rare strain, enteroviruses in general infect thousands of people every year. Some strains are so mild that people never know they are infected. EV-D68, however, can be serious.

It produces respiratory symptoms that can range from mild to life-threatening. Mild symptoms include fever, sneezing, cough and body aches. Severe symptoms include wheezing and trouble breathing.

EV-D68 is spread through saliva and mucus. Anyone with symptoms of EV-D68 should seek medical care.

In the current outbreak, the virus has affected mainly children. It is believed to be responsible for five deaths in the current outbreak. EV-D68 is particularly dangerous for kids who have existing respiratory conditions like asthma.

The CDC noted in a press release that the improved testing method is not used to decide how to treat patients. Treatment of patients focuses on alleviating symptoms — there is no known cure for the virus. Instead, the test is used to identify clusters and patterns in the outbreak, which can guide public health responses to the outbreak.

With the old testing method, the CDC was able to test about 40 lab specimens for EV-D68 per day. The new test will bring that figure up to around 180. The new method will likely produce a spike in case numbers, the CDC noted.

"As CDC tests the remaining specimens it has received since mid-September, the number of confirmed EV-D68 cases will likely increase substantially in the coming days," according to the CDC statement. "These increases will not reflect changes in real time or mean that the situation is getting worse. Ultimately, faster testing will help to better show the trends of this outbreak since August and to monitor changes that are occurring now."

Review Date: 
October 15, 2014
Last Updated:
October 20, 2014