In a first, DNA test find root of illness

June 6, 2014 12:49 AM

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In a first, DNA test find root of illness

Joshua Osborn, 14, lay in a coma at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. For weeks his brain had been swelling with fluid, and a battery of tests had failed to reveal the cause. The doctors told his parents, Clark and Julie, that they wanted to run one more test with an experimental new technology. Scientists would search Joshua's cerebrospinal fluid for pieces of DNA. Some of them might belong to the pathogen causing his encephalitis.

The Osborns agreed, although they were skeptical. But in the first procedure of its kind, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, managed to pinpoint the cause of Joshua's problem — within 48 hours. He had been infected with an obscure species of bacteria. Once identified, it was...

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