UC San Francisco to Launch Center for Viral Diagnosis & Discovery in Early 2009

“Our plan is: Make it open to everybody,” from doctors with a single troubling case to large research efforts such as the state-run California Encephalitis Project.

University of California San Francisco will be launching a center for viral diagnosis and discovery in early 2009. The goal is to hunt down more causes of pneumonia, encephalitis and other lethal and disabling conditions whose origins too often baffle doctors, even as their patients are slipping away. Requests for analysis are only made through doctors or research projects, not the general public.

Virologist Joe DeRisi, inventor of the Viro-Chip from Carmichael, California, will be part of the project. His Viro-Chip, a microarray that holds genetic snippets of thousands of viruses on one glass slide, will be one of the key sleuthing tools.(1)

Highlights from article that appeared in The Sacramento Bee:(2)

“Our plan is: Make it open to everybody,” from doctors with a single troubling case to large research efforts such as the state-run California Enchephalitis Project, said Dr. Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, an infectious disease specialist who’ll head the center.

“About 20 to 30 percent of the time we can’t make a diagnosis in pneumonia,” said Chiu. “The situation is even worse for other severe diseases like encephalitis,” an inflammation of the brain whose cause is unknown in more than 60 percent of cases.

Those mysteries are “unbelievably frustrating to the family, the patients, the physicians,” said Dr. Carol Glaser, who is involved in a government-funded effort to detect more causes of encephalitis. “If you don’t know what causes it, how can you figure out how to treat it or prevent it?” she said.

Eliminating a wide range of possible causes can protect a desperately ill person from undergoing risky diagnostic tests or taking unneeded drugs.

Once the new center is up and running, perhaps in February or March, Chiu expects to hear from more doctors struggling to understand unusual cases, the ones where patients keep getting sicker and all the standard diagnostic tests come back negative.

Still, said virologist DeRisi, “We don’t want members of the public sending us weird stuff. We want them to go to their doctor and have the doctor send us stuff.”
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1. See New York Times Q&A “Computers + Biology = Virus Detector (A Conversation with Joseph DeRisi)” by Claudia Dreifus, published Oct 6, 2008.

2. See “Virus hunter looks to make more medical breakthroughs at UCSF” by Carrie Peyton Dahlberg, Sacramento Bee, Dec 7 2008

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4 thoughts on “UC San Francisco to Launch Center for Viral Diagnosis & Discovery in Early 2009”

  1. outofstep says:

    When I was hospitalized for encephalitis the drs tested for everything under the sun, except for what I had, EBV & HHV-6. It seems like physicians should know from their training what viruses cause encephalitis, but evidently enough don’t so this will be useful. But even more relevant is the Viro-Chip which should be able to tell us exactly what viruses are involved in ME/CFS or FM, and whether they are new or not. What is exasperating is that the Viro-Chip is being used for diseases like SARS when there are 1-4 million people in this country suffering from CFS and 10-15% of patients have chronic viral infections. Get CFS and FM patients in there and start testing them!!! Let’s find out what we’re dealing with so that we can finally get treatment!

  2. frostymocha says:

    I too spent 13 years with re-occuring (every 2 months) viral meltdowns and brain inflamation until I collapsed and my immune system gave out – even then the team of specialists that were testing me failed to run viral tests for the most common likely viruses (EBV, Varicella, HSV6, CMV) and also said there wasn’t anything they could give me other than IV-IGG. If I hadn;t called and pleaded for an appointment with Stanford (with nealry my last breath), I wouldnt be alive today. Stanford ran the viral panels immediately, began treatment the same day. I think it is great that UC San Fran will be opening this center but, it is NOT that hard for ANY Doctor to simply run the viral panels and use this as a standard diagnoistic approach – I think the problem is most Doctors dont want to deal with the issue of viral illnesses and don’t keep up with the research on them – just like most dont want to recognize let alone treat CFS / ME. This needs to be mandatory in medical school curiculums and ongoing training. It is a just plain tragic that Doctors can pick and choose to ignore be ignorant of viral illnesses and CFS / ME.

    Me – I am still hopeful I will eventually recover but I have a long road ahead now given how ill I became before I got a diagnosis and I have permanent neural damage that may never recover – I pray – everyday – that NO ONE has to go thru what I did to get a SIMPLE diagnosis AND treatment. ALL GPs and Internists should be able to run basic viral panels.

  3. Keybard says:

    brillian comments. It’s even worse in Canada….

  4. Keybard says:

    brilliant comments. It’s even worse in Canada….

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