Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LabCorp) has announced the availability of a reflex test to identify enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), which is associated with severe respiratory illness that primarily affects children. More than 1,100 cases of EV-D68 infections have been confirmed in the United States since August 2014. There are currently no vaccines or specific treatments available.

EV infections are responsible for a broad spectrum of common and uncommon illnesses, and cause millions of symptomatic infections annually in the United States. Although most non-neurological infections with these viruses prove to be relatively benign, respiratory tract infections caused by EV-D68 can become serious, particularly for pediatric patients with asthma.

Starting in August 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health agencies noted a significant rise in the number of pediatric patients with severe respiratory illness linked to EV-D68. The outbreak has led to many hospitalizations, and in some cases has required admission to pediatric intensive care units. Antiviral drugs have so far been ineffective in treating the infections. As a result, CDC has issued guidelines for healthcare professionals concerning the proper clinical evaluation, reporting, and treatment procedures for patients with suspected or confirmed EV-D68 infections.

LabCorp’s EV-D68 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test determines the presence or absence of enteroviral RNA in a respiratory sample, and if positive, reflexes to an EV-D68-specific PCR test. The EV-D68 subtyping PCR test makes it possible to determine the presence or absence of the predominant D68 strain.

“Understanding the underlying cause of this severe illness allows the clinician to manage symptoms appropriately through protocols like those issued by CDC, which may also help reduce further transmission of the virus,” says Mark Brecher, MD, LabCorp’s chief medical officer.

For more information, visit LabCorp.