For healthy people, the infection with the common herpes virus CMV (Cytomegalovirus) infection is harmless, has no or very few symptoms, and therefore does not require treatment. For patients with a weakened immune system, however, an infection with this virus can have life-threatening consequences. Determining the CMV status is therefore essential to prevent an outbreak of CMV and gives the patient the best possible chance of a successful stem cell transplant. If there is not only one but several possible donors for a patient, the same CMV status is therefore an additional criterion for donor selection.
What we wanted to change
Up until recently, the determination of the CMV status was only possible by testing blood. Since potential stem cell donors typically are registered by DNA typing from buccal swab, CMV test was usually only performed during confirmation typing (CT) and could not be considered during the first steps of the search for the right donor.
Why hasn’t it been done before?
Buccal Swabs are the perfect material for DNA-typing. To determine, if someone has been infected with CMV, a test for antibodies needs to be done. For antibodies, a dry swab is a hostile environment. High and low temperatures are damaging the protein structure and present us with many challenges.
Developing a new workflow
With our validated CMV assay for blood plasma as a starting point, we developed an ELISA assay specifically adapted to cope with low IgG – antibody – concentrations. If the swab was used conscientious and the newly registered donor has a high level of antibodies, the differences between an infected and not infected person are easily distinguished. However, for many samples the results were not as distinct as required. To match our objective, a BCA-full-protein assay (bicinchoninic acid assay) was implemented in addition to the main test. Our customized setup and bioinformatical methods to interpret results and certainty enable a high throughput workflow amounting to more than 6.000 samples daily while high quality is controlled though our advanced monitor system
Looking forward to deliver
Regarding the great results above and the many more samples from all over the world awaiting CMV testing we have already installed a second robot platform with the same layout. This new device is working with its twin brother to generate more results as fast as possible. For the future we hope to further support the search for the perfect match and will continue to process as many CMV samples of potential new stem cell donors as possible.