Rapid diagnostic assays based on direct detection of viral antigen or nucleic acid are being used with increasing frequency in clinical virology laboratories. Virus culture, however, remains the only way to detect infectious virus and to analyze clinically relevant viral phenotypes, such as drug resistance. Growth of viruses in cell culture is labor intensive and time-consuming and requires the use of many different cell lines. Transgenic technology, together with increasing knowledge of the molecular pathways of virus replication, offers the possibility of using genetically modified cell lines to improve virus growth in cell culture and to facilitate detection of virus-infected cells. Genetically modifying cells so that they express a reporter gene only after infection with a specific virus can allow the detection of infectious virus by rapid and simple enzyme assays such as beta-galactosidase assays without the need for antibodies. Although transgenic cells have recently been successfully used for herpes simplex virus detection, much more work needs to be done to adapt this technology to other human viral pathogens such as cytomegalovirus and respiratory viruses. This review offers some strategies for applying this technology to a wide spectrum of animal viruses
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