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New test can diagnose mysterious infections

Keith Srakocic / AP

Researchers have created a brain test that can discover the source "of virtually any neurological infection," according to Scientific American.

For example, the test helped doctors to diagnose a brain tapeworm in a man from Nicaragua by identifying its DNA. The patient didn't have symptoms of the infection typically picked up by MRI scans.

How it works: Rather than look for a particular infection with a specific test, all of the DNA and RNA in a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is analyzed in order to identify foreign genetic material from viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi. The challenge, researchers say, is "making sense of the output," but they've developed procedures for doctors to determine the most-likely cause of infection from the genomic data.

Coming soon: The researchers who developed the test at U.C. San Francisco will begin offering the test "as a custom-ordered service" to hospitals and labs across the U.S. on July 1.