A novel set of primers has been developed for use in a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of cytomegalovirus (CMV). The purpose of this development is to enable faster, more sensitive detection of CMV virus infecting body fluids and tissues.

Each year, in the United States, an estimated 40,000 infants are infected congenitally with CMV, which is a member of the herpesvirus family. CMV is the most common congenital viral infection in humans, and it is the leading infectious cause of mental retardation and nonhereditary sensorineural deafness. Studies show that CMV can survive from 2 to 48 hours in saliva and on environmental surfaces. Healthy adults usually experience unrecognized mild infections of this latent virus. For spaceflight crews, the pre-spaceflight quarantine period does not lessen the infectious-disease risks associated with latent viruses. Resulting viral illnesses can seriously affect the health of a crew.

The tissue-culture methods used heretofore for detecting CMV infections are labor-intensive, are subject to variability among technicians, lack sensitivity and specificity, and are time-consuming (taking 4 to 21 days in each case). The present PCR method with the novel primers overcomes these deficiencies of tissue-culture methods. The first primer — the sense strand — is a 21-base-pair oligonucleotide; the second primer — the antisense strand — is an 18-base-pair oligonucleotide. The use of these primers makes it possible to detect CMV infections directly from specimens of urine, saliva, blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and feces. These primers and the PCR method satisfy requirements with respect to preparation of specimens, sensitivity relative to traditional methods, and clinical significance of results. Applications also include detection of relapse of infection and testing the effectiveness of the antiviral therapy.

The development of this set of primers to amplify viral DNA by PCR offers a rapid, high-volume, and less expensive means (relative to tissue-culture methods) of viral diagnostic testing. Patients who have AIDS or cancer, transplant recipients, and others who are susceptible to CMV infections would receive the most benefit from this method of rapid detection.

This work was done by Duane L. Pierson of Johnson Space Center and Raymond P. Stowe of KRUG Life Sciences, Inc. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp  under the Bio-Medical category.

Title to this invention has been waived under the provisions of the National Aeronautics and Space Act {42 U.S.C. 2457(f)}, to KRUG Life Sciences, Inc. Inquiries concerning licenses for its commercial development should be addressed to

Raymond P. Stowe
KRUG Life Sciences, Inc.
1290 Hercules Drive
Suite 120
Houston, TX 77058
(281) 212-1200

Refer to MSC-22694, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2000 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.