Journal of Microbiology

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 172–182 | Cite as

The role of laboratory diagnostics in emerging viral infections: the example of the Middle East respiratory syndrome epidemic

  • Jasper F. W. Chan
  • Siddharth Sridhar
  • Cyril C. Y. Yip
  • Susanna K. P. Lau
  • Patrick C. Y. WooEmail author
Review Emerging and Re-emerging Viral Disease and Vaccines


Rapidly emerging infectious disease outbreaks place a great strain on laboratories to develop and implement sensitive and specific diagnostic tests for patient management and infection control in a timely manner. Furthermore, laboratories also play a role in real-time zoonotic, environmental, and epidemiological investigations to identify the ultimate source of the epidemic, facilitating measures to eventually control the outbreak. Each assay modality has unique pros and cons; therefore, incorporation of a battery of tests using traditional culture-based, molecular and serological diagnostics into diagnostic algorithms is often required. As such, laboratories face challenges in assay development, test evaluation, and subsequent quality assurance. In this review, we describe the different testing modalities available for the ongoing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) epidemic including cell culture, nucleic acid amplification, antigen detection, and antibody detection assays. Applications of such tests in both acute clinical and epidemiological investigation settings are highlighted. Using the MERS epidemic as an example, we illustrate the various challenges faced by laboratories in test development and implementation in the setting of a rapidly emerging infectious disease. Future directions in the diagnosis of MERS and other emerging infectious disease investigations are also highlighted.


coronavirus middle east MERS diagnosis epidemic 


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Copyright information

© The Microbiological Society of Korea and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jasper F. W. Chan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Siddharth Sridhar
    • 2
  • Cyril C. Y. Yip
    • 2
  • Susanna K. P. Lau
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Patrick C. Y. Woo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious DiseasesThe University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionHong KongP. R. China
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyThe University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionHong KongP. R. China
  3. 3.Research Centre of Infection and ImmunologyThe University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionHong KongP. R. China
  4. 4.Carol Yu Centre for InfectionThe University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative RegionHong KongP. R. China

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