Genetic testing may help diagnose or rule out brain infections, researchers report.
They said their pilot study showed that using computers to rapidly analyze large amounts of genetic and biological information from brain tissue samples could offer a cost-effective addition to pathology lab testing.
The research team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore noted that more than 50 percent of inflammatory disorders and infections of the brain go undiagnosed, resulting in patients receiving treatments for individual symptoms that can do more harm than good.
The study included 10 patients, aged 16 to 68, with signs of brain infection, including fever, weakness in limbs, partial paralysis, numbness, headache or seizures. The researchers took a sample from an area of inflamed, damaged brain tissue and sequenced the DNA in the tissue.
They looked for evidence of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that could cause infection.
“By incorporating modern genetic sequencing techniques into pathology diagnostics, we were able to investigate the potential presence of infection in 10 subjects and found appropriate explanations of clinical problems in eight out of 10 patient cases examined in this study,” said study author Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, an associate professor of neurology at Hopkins.
“We hope to develop this technique further as a way to bring the diagnosis rate of inflammatory brain disorders and infections closer to 100 percent so we can treat patients more effectively,” he said in a university news release.
The study was published online recently in the journal Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation.
The Merck Manual has more on brain infections.