Advances in laboratory assays for detecting human metapneumovirus

Seri Jeong, Min-Jeong Park, Wonkeun Song, Hyon-Suk Kim


Human metapneumovirus (HMPV) is one of the major causes of acute respiratory tract infection (ARI) and shows high morbidity and mortality, particularly in children and immunocompromised patients. Various methods for detecting HMPV have been developed and applied in clinical laboratories. When reviewing the literature, we found that polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays have been most frequently and consistently used to detect HMPV. The most commonly used method was multiplex reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR; 57.4%), followed by real-time RT-PCR (38.3%). Multiplex RT-PCR became the more popular method in 2011–2019 (69.7%), in contrast to 2001–2009 (28.6%). The advent of multiplex PCR in detecting broader viral pathogens in one run and coinfected viruses influenced the change in user preference. Further, newly developed microarray technologies and ionization mass spectrometry were introduced in 2011–2019. Viral culture (including shell vial assays) and fluorescent immunoassays (with or without culture) were once the mainstays. However, the percentage of studies employing culture and fluorescent immunoassays decreased from 21.4% in 2001–2010 to 15.2% in 2011–2019. Meanwhile, the use of PCR-based methods of HMPV detection increased from 78.6% in 2001–2010 to 84.8% in 2011–2019. The increase in PCR-based methods might have occurred because PCR methods demonstrated better diagnostic performance, shorter hands-on and run times, less hazards to laboratory personnel, and more reliable results than traditional methods. When using these assays, it is important to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the principles, advantages, disadvantages, and precautions for data interpretation. In the future, the combination of nanotechnology and advanced genetic platforms such as next-generation sequencing will benefit patients with HMPV infection by facilitating efficient therapeutic intervention. Analytical and clinical validation are required before using new techniques in clinical laboratories.

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