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Alberta Hantavirus

bhjelle at unm.edu bhjelle at unm.edu
Wed Oct 12 13:14:33 EST 1994

In article <37gtl2$ib5 at quartz.ucs.ualberta.ca>,
Dr. R. Marusyk <rmarusyk at mercury.uah.ualberta.ca> wrote:
>Alberta Hantavirus
>Unfortunately, the long-established presence of Hantaviruses in these
>parts has been largely ignored. Dan McLeod, now at the Viral Oncology
>Lab at the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control in Ottawa, when he was
>in charge of the large influenza serum bank at LCDC had supplied sera to
>H-W Lee (the Hantavirus man) for a retrospective study of the
>seroprevalence of Hantavirus antibody in the Canadian population. That
>study (published in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology in 1984 (30:
>1137-40) clearly showed that the virus was here. However, the
>powers-that-be declined to fund further investigation as, in their
>opinion, the virus DID NOT EXIST in Canada. Carleton Gajdusek, who was

Hey, not to dispute that hantaviruses
have been in Canada for as long as Canada
has had rodents :-)... but human serosurveys
for hantavirus antibodies are inherently unreliable,
since the field has only recently begun to
appreciate basic tenets of viral diagnosis
that are hard-won and well-established in
more advanced areas like HCV and retroviral
diagnosis. I'm speaking here of using rather
nonspecific methods like ELISA, followed by
general pronouncements about "seroprevalence"
that are totally unprovable. There is no PCR
assay for *past* infection by hantaviruses,
since humans clear the virus (see this month's
issue of J. Infectious Diseases).

I am heavily involved in viral diagnosis, but
in my spare time I serve as a medical director
for a blood bank. If I were to start notifying
people that they had HIV based upon an ELISA
only, I would be wrong 98% of the time and
FDA would shut down my blood bank in the wink
of an eye. Yet, mysteriously, ELISA alone
is currently being accepted as a means to
diagnose hantavirus infection. Go figure.


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