What Infectious Diseases Can Be Tracked Using Digital PCR Technology?
DPCR, or Digital Polymerase Chain Reaction, consists in the quantification and clonal amplification of nucleic acid strands through a biotechnological refinement method. This relatively new technique finds applications in oncology, in the detection of diabetes, obesity and prenatal conditions, in organ transplant, in environmental and food industry assessments and in the field of infectious diseases. In the latter case, tracking the progress of infections and monitoring reservoirs is greatly facilitated by Digital PCR. Polymerase chain reaction aims to amplify a nucleic acid molecule by replicating it using the enzyme DNA polymerase. Amplification is done repeatedly to determine patterns which are extrapolated based on the theoretically exponential nature of amplification.
Digital PCR, a True Innovation
By partitioning the samples within which the reaction happens, Digital PCR achieves more subtle and precise measurements of nucleic acid amounts, thus allowing for an in-depth inspection of the variation in gene sequences. Instead of being deductible, evolution patterns become observable as thousands of distinct amplifications are carried out on the same sample. Stilla Technologies – behind the Naica™ system and its dedicated software – provides reliable measurement equipment for a wide range of digital PCR assays.
Infectious Disease Detection Thanks to DPCR
Digital PCR applications include oncology, genetic diseases, and more, but infectious diseases are an area where DPCR is especially relevant. Thanks to this accurate and non-invasive tool, monitoring patients with a suspected pathogen infection has become a more dependable process and communicable diseases may be detected more reliably.
Pathogenic viruses respond better to earlier treatments, hence the importance of being able to diagnose them rapidly. Hepatitis B is an example of such a disease which may be transmitted via the fluids of an asymptomatic host. Digital PCR may constitute a means of improving and speeding up HBV detection. In the case of HIV, DPCR not only provides a sensitive tool to achieve an early diagnosis, but also a method through which the progression of the disease and that of the antiviral may be monitored.
In bacterial infectious diseases, such as Lyme disease or tuberculosis, a misdiagnosis can have disastrous consequences. In the case of Lyme disease, it is responsible for as much as 60% of the disability rate. As for tuberculosis, where 50% of patients who develop an active form of the disease may die if not treated immediately, being able to quickly and effectively test unvaccinated populations is of the utmost importance. By providing a direct count of the bacterial numbers in a sample, DPCR eliminates the need for invasive testing procedures.
Digital PCR can help in establishing a reliable count of parasites (such as malaria) in humans and in other organisms to determine high or low-intensity transmission areas. It acts as a powerful surveillance tool providing directly interpretable results without the need for a standard curve.