CDC Has New Enterovirus D68 Test

In a development that could help clear its backlog of specimens awaiting testing, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it has developed a faster test for Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

In a development that could help clear its backlog of specimens awaiting testing, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it has developed a faster test for Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68).

Testing for the virus is not mandatory, but as EV-D68 has been reported across the nation, the CDC’s labs have been swamped. Since the outbreak of EV-D68 began in August, CDC has tested 1163 specimens submitted by hospitals and from 45 states. Only a few states, including New York, have laboratories equipped to do the PCR testing necessary to distinguish EV-D68 from other viruses.

In announcing the new test, the CDC said it will significantly reduce the waiting time for results. “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, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “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.” There are currently more than 1,000 specimens queued up for testing, the CDC said.

Of the specimens tested by the CDC lab from August 1 to October 10, about half have tested positive for EV-D68. About one third have tested positive for a rhinovirus or an enterovirus other than EV-D68. The new lab test will allow us to process the approximately one-thousand remaining specimens at a much faster rate.

CDC’s new lab test is a “real-time” reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or rRT-PCR, one that can identify all strains of EV-D68 the CDC has seen this summer and fall.

It has fewer and shorter steps than the test that CDC and some states were using for the EV-D68 outbreak. Also, the new test allows more specimens to be tested at the same time. The previous test, which CDC used for about nine years, is very sensitive and can be used to detect and identify almost all enteroviruses; however, it requires multiple, labor-intensive processing steps and cannot be easily scaled up to support testing of large numbers of specimens in real time that is needed for the current EV-D68 outbreak, the CDC said.