The Virus Identification Laboratory provides rapid-turnaround diagnostic virology for a large number of viruses of clinical importance. The full range of tests provided can be found in the VIDRL Test Handbook.
Virus detection is mainly carried out using polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays, several of which are multiplexed (Druce 2002). For example, the herpesvirus multiplex assay is able to simultaneously detect HSV-1, HSV-2, CMV and VZV. The respiratory virus PCR detects influenza viruses (types A and B), RSV, parainfluenza viruses (types 1, 2 and 3), adenoviruses, rhinoviruses (and enteroviruses), coronaviruses and human metapneumovirus.
All PCR assays used in the laboratory have undergone extensive validation and incorporate internal controls to verify nucleic acid extraction and detect inhibitors of PCR amplification. A charge is made for most of the PCR assays provided by the laboratory.
Other activities undertaken in the Virus Identification Laboratory involve those associated with its state, national or WHO related responsibilities. Scientists in the laboratory are directly involved in the running of the National High Security Quarantine Laboratory and the WHO Measles Reference Laboratory.
The laboratory also has the designation of a National Influenza Centre within the WHO Global Influenza Program.
As well as its diagnostic function, the Virus Identification Laboratory has an ongoing research and development program. The program covers
- the study of mechanisms of drug resistance acquired by HSV
- the changing epidemiology of genital HSV infection
- molecular characterisation of human coronaviruses
- investigations of the stability of viruses under physical and chemical conditions