Patent application title: METHOD FOR DIAGNOSIS AND MONITORING OF VIRAL INFECTION BY ANALYSIS OF VIRAL TRANSRENAL NUCLEIC ACIDS IN URINE
Hovsep S. Melkonyan (Princeton, NJ, US)
Angela Cannas (Arbus, IT)
Louis David Tomei (Rome, IT)
Samuil R. Umansky (Princeton, NJ, US)
IPC8 Class: AC12Q170FI
Class name: Drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions miscellaneous (e.g., hydrocarbons, etc.)
Publication date: 2013-07-11
Patent application number: 20130178544
The present invention relates to methods for diagnosis or monitoring of
viral infection by detecting the presence of transrenal viral nucleic
acids or nucleic acids of viral origin in urine sample, with or without
isolation of nucleic acids from a urine sample. The analysis of the
nucleic acids is performed through hybridization of the nucleic acids
with specific probes, or through a chain amplification reaction with
specific primers. The methods are applicable to all viral pathogenic
agents, including RNA, DNA, episomal, or integrated viruses.
1. A method for detecting a viral infection in a subject, said method
comprising detecting the presence of viral transrenal nucleic acids in a
urine sample from said subject, said detecting comprising contacting the
viral transrenal nucleic acids with a primer containing a complementary
sequence and extending the primer to produce an extension product, and
determining a viral infection in said subject based on the presence of
the extension product.
2. The method according to claim 1, wherein said nucleic acids are deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
3. The method according to claim 1, further comprising quantitating said viral transrenal nucleic acids.
4. The method according to claim 3, wherein said quantitating is performed by a means selected from hybridization, PCR, nested PCR, SSCP, LCR, and SDA.
5. The method according to claim 1, further comprising the step of separating the urine sample into a cell-free fraction containing said transrenal nucleic acids.
6. The method according to claim 5, wherein said viral transrenal nucleic acids comprise DNA fragments of between about 100 and about 200 bp.
7. The method according to claim 1, further comprising isolation or purification of said nucleic acids.
8. The method according to claim 7, wherein said purification is performed through chemical or physical methods.
9. The method according to claim 1, including a pretreatment of the urine sample with one or more agents that inhibit the degradation of the nucleic acids.
10. The method according to claim 9, wherein said agents are selected from ion-chelating agents, denaturing agents, and ionic detergents.
11. The method according to claim 10, wherein said ion-chelating agents are EDTA; said denaturing agents are guanidine HCl or guanidine isothiocyanate; and said ionic detergents are N-lauryl sarcosine or sodium dodecyl sulfate.
12. The method according to claim 1, wherein said detecting the presence of said viral nucleic acids is performed through a technique selected from hybridization of the nucleic acids, a cycling probe reaction, a polymerase chain reaction, a nested polymerase chain reaction, single-strand conformation polymorphism, a ligase chain reaction, strand displacement amplification, and restriction fragments length polymorphism.
13. The method according to claim 1, wherein said viral infection is hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
14. A method for monitoring a viral infection in a subject, said method comprising: a) quantitating the amount of a viral transrenal nucleic acid in a first urine sample from said subject, in accordance with claim 3; b) quantitating the amount of said viral transrenal nucleic acid in a second urine sample from said subject, in accordance with claim 3; and c) comparing the amount of said viral transrenal nucleic acid in said first and said second urine sample from said subject, thereby monitoring said viral infection in said subject.
15. The method according to claim 14, further comprising administering to said subject a compound that reduces or inhibits said viral infection.
16. The method according to claim 14, wherein said subject is at risk of developing a recurring viral infection.
17. The method according to claim 14, wherein said viral infection is hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
 This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 13/114,289, filed May 24, 2011, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/137,935, filed May 25, 2005, which claims priority to Italian patent application RM2005A000067, filed Feb. 17, 2005, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The technical field of the invention is that of the molecular diagnosis of viral infections.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Early analysis and the possibility of directly genotyping the pathogenic agent are among the principal objectives of research in the diagnostic field. The development of new diagnostic assays should also take into account a degree of compatibility to high-throughput screening methods and a high level of sensitivity for diagnoses made as soon as possible after the occurrence of the infection. In developing countries it is also important to take into account the ease of handling of biological samples, for more widespread distribution of the diagnostic assays.
 There are currently three types of in vitro diagnostic systems: direct culture of the pathogenic agent from the biological sample, which is the so-called "gold standard" of diagnostic assays; immunological assays based on the detection of products or antigens of the infectious agent; and indirect immunological assays that can detect antibodies produced against the infectious agent during or after infection.
 In the first system, the principal disadvantage is that the biological sample must be considered to be at risk, inasmuch as it can potentially transmit the pathogenic agent, whereas in the indirect detection of the antibodies there is no possibility of discriminating between past and current infections.
 Molecular diagnostic methods have been developed that are based on the detection of the nucleic acids of the pathogenic agent in the blood or plasma samples, or in the cell cultures, taken from the patient. These tests are usually much more sensitive than the immunoassays. For this reason, and because of their specificity, they are extremely promising, but usually require special equipment and qualified personnel.
 Molecular diagnostic methods based on transrenal DNA (TrDNA) have been described and their utility for monitoring the fate of allogeneic transplants, to detect the sex of a fetus, and to screen the presence of tumor markers was demonstrated. In particular, U.S. Pat. No. 6,251,638 describes an analytical method for detecting male fetal DNA in the urine of pregnant women; in U.S. Pat. No. 6,287,820, the invention is aimed at the diagnosis of tumors, particularly of adenocarcinomas (of the colon and pancreas); and in U.S. Pat. No. 6,492,144, the transrenal nucleic-acid analysis method is used to monitor the progress of allogeneic transplants, using known methods for molecular analysis. The presence of identifiable transrenal DNA in urine, in the fraction of DNA fragments consisting of 150 base pairs or more, was shown (Al-Yatama et al. (2001), "Detection of Y-chromosome-specific DNA in the plasma and urine of pregnant women using nested polymerase chain reaction"; Prenat Diagn, 21:399-402; and Utting, M., et al. (2002), "Microsatellite analysis of free tumor DNA in urine, serum, and plasma of patients: A minimally invasive method for the detection of bladder cancer"; Clin Cancer Res, 8:35-40).
 Molecular detection of TrDNA in urine is performed using techniques that are very well known in the art and widely used in laboratory practice, such as PCR (polymerase chain reaction), hybridization, or the so-called "cycling probe reaction."
 The presence of transrenal DNA has been explained as being the result of phenomenon of apoptosis. In the process of apoptosis or programmed cell death the nuclear DNA is cleaved into nucleosomes and oligomers, which subsequently, as a part of apoptotic process, are phagocytozed and removed from the organism. (Umansky, S. R., et al. (1982), "In vivo DNA degradation in thymocytes of gamma-irradiated or hydrocortisone-treated rats"; Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 655:9-17). A portion of this degraded DNA, though, escapes the phagocytosis, and appears in the bloodstream (Lichtenstein, A. V., et al. (2001), "Circulating nucleic acids and apoptosis"; Ann NY Acad Sci, 945:239-249), and, as confirmed in the above-referred patents, also in urine.
 The presence of viral DNA that originates from sources outside of the urinary tract, in urine has not been described until now. Meanwhile, circulation of viral DNA released from the genome of transfected cell in the plasma has been shown: for example, fragments of Epstein-Barr viral DNA were detected in plasma of patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma (Chan, K. C., et al. (2002), "Molecular characterization of circulating EBV DNA in the plasma of nasopharyngeal carcinoma and lymphoma patients"; Cancer Res 63:2028-2032), and in the case of human papilloma virus (HPV) in the plasma of patients with cervical cancer (Pornthanakasem, W., et al. (2001), "Human Papillomavirus DNA in plasma of patients with cervical cancer"; BMC Cancer 1:2).
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to methods for diagnosis and monitoring of viral infections by detecting and quantifying transrenal viral NA-specific sequences. In embodiments, the nucleic acids are isolated or purified. The method also includes the fractionation of the urine sample, for example, through centrifugation or filtration, with the separation of a cell-free fraction from a fraction associated with the cell bodies.
 Furthermore, in another embodiment, the sample is pretreated with a denaturing agent.
 The analysis of the nucleic acids is performed using one of the following techniques: hybridization of the nucleic acids, the cycling probe reaction, a polymerase chain reaction, a nested polymerase chain reaction, single-strand conformation polymorphism, a ligase chain reaction, strand displacement amplification, and restriction fragment length polymorphism.
 The method is applicable to all viral pathogenic agents, including RNA, DNA, episomal, and integrative viruses. It also applies to recombinant viruses, such as the adenoviruses or lentiviruses utilized in gene therapy. In particular, the methods apply to the following viruses: retroviruses, including recombinant and natural HIV-1, HIV-2, variola virus, poliovirus, herpes simplex virus (HSV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and adenoviruses (AAV). In some embodiments the viral agents are Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and HIV-1.
 In another of its embodiments, the invention relates to a kit for the detection of viral nucleic acid in urine, including: reagents and/or materials for the fractionation and/or extraction of transrenal nucleic acids from urine, DNA probe, or pairs of specific oligonucleotides (primers) for at least one viral agent.
 Unless otherwise defined, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention relates. Although methods and materials similar or equivalent to those described herein can be used in the practice or testing of the present invention, suitable methods and materials are described below. All publications, patent applications, patents, and other references mentioned herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety. In the case of conflict, the present specification, including definitions, will control. In addition, the materials, methods, and examples are illustrative only and not intended to be limiting.
 Other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following detailed description and claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
 FIG. 1 is a photographic image showing the results of gel electrophoresis of the amplification product obtained through nested PCR of the transrenal DNA of non-fractionated urine samples of patients infected with HIV-1 (20 cycles with the 468/602 primer pair [134 bp] followed by 35 cycles with 518/596 [79 bp]). The primers are specific for the HIV-1 GAG region.
 FIG. 2 is a photographic image showing the results of gel electrophoresis of the amplification product obtained through nested PCR of the genomic DNA extracted from 8E5 LAV cells (20 cycles with the 468/602 primer pair [134 bp] followed by 35 cycles with 518/596 [79 bp]). The primers are specific for the HIV-1 GAG region.
 FIG. 3 is a photographic image showing the results of gel electrophoresis of the amplification product obtained through nested PCR of the transrenal DNA of urine samples of patients infected with HIV-1 (CP: complete; SN: supernatant; PT: pellet). A-102 bp/60 bp (specific primers for the HIV-1 POL region); B-317 bp/60 bp (specific for POL); C-569 bp/132 bp (specific for TAT); NI: non-infected; IN 1-3: patients infected with HIV.
 Other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following detailed description and from the claims.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 The present definitions are offered for the purposes of the present invention:
 Amplicon: A term for any relatively small, DNA fragment that is replicated, e.g., by PCR.
 Amplification: An increase in the number of copies of a specific DNA fragment can occur in vivo or in vitro.
 Apoptosis: Programmed cell death in normally functioning human and animal cells when age or state of cell health and condition dictate. An active process requiring metabolic activity by the dying cell, characterized by cleavage of the DNA into fragments that give a so called laddering pattern of DNA fragments of nucleosomal size and its oligomers.
 Chaotropic: The property of chemical substances (e.g., ions such as SCN.sup.-, ClO4.sup.-, and guanidine) that disturb the thermodynamic structure of water. It allows less polar and more hydrophobic substances to become more soluble in water. The effect at the biological level is the denaturation of proteins.
 Episome: A circular DNA molecule of that can replicate independently of the cellular chromosome or integrate and replicate as part of the chromosome.
 Gene: DNA fragment that contains sequences necessary to code for an mRNA, and to control the expression of these sequences.
 Genome: The total set of genes of an organism enclosed, among the eukaryotes, in chromosomal structures.
 Cyclic Probe Reaction: CPT reactions are performed at a constant specific temperature, which allows hybridization of the chimeric probe with its complementary single-stranded target DNA. Within the resulting target-probe duplex, RNase H recognizes the DNA-RNA hybrid and specifically cleaves the RNA portion of the probe. The cleaved fragments are not stable at the reaction temperature and disassociate from the target. The target is then free to hybridize with another probe molecule, and the cycle is repeated. The probe fragments accumulate, serving as a basis for the detection of target. Over time, the accumulation of cleaved probe fragments follows linear kinetics and therefore the amount of target can be quantified.
 Hybridization: A widely used technique that exploits the ability of complementary sequences in single-stranded DNAs or RNAs to pair with each other to form a double helix. Hybridization can take place between two complimentary DNA sequences, between a single-stranded DNA and a complementary RNA, or between two RNA sequences. The technique is used to detect and isolate specific sequences, measure homology, or define other characteristics of one or both strands.
 Infection: Invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in body tissues, which may be clinically unapparent or result in local cellular injury due to competitive metabolism, toxins, intracellular replication or antigen antibody response.
 Ligase Chain Reaction: A method of DNA amplification similar to PCR. LCR differs from PCR because it amplifies the probe molecule rather than producing amplicon through polymerization of nucleotides. Two probes are used per each DNA strand and are ligated together to form a single probe. LCR uses both a DNA polymerase enzyme and a DNA ligase enzyme to drive the reaction Like PCR, LCR requires a thermal cycler to drive the reaction and each cycle results in a doubling of the target nucleic acid molecule. LCR can have greater specificity than PCR.
 Nested PCR: A second PCR that is performed on the product of an earlier PCR using primer, which are internal to the originals. This significantly improves the sensitivity and specificity of the PCR.
 Nested primer: A selected primer internal to an amplicon obtained with a first PCR cycle. The amplification process that uses at least one nested primer improves specificity, because the non-specific products of the first cycle are not amplified in the second cycle.
 Nucleic Acid: Linear polymers of nucleotides, linked by 3',5' phosphodiester linkages. In DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, the sugar group is deoxyribose and the bases of the nucleotides adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. RNA, ribonucleic acid, has ribose as the sugar and uracil replaces thymine. DNA functions as a stable repository of genetic information in the form of base sequence. RNA has a similar function in some viruses but more usually serves as an informational intermediate (mRNA), a transporter of amino acids (tRNA), in a structural capacity or, in some newly discovered instances, as an enzyme.
 Oligonucleotide/Polynucleotide: Linear sequence of two or more nucleotides joined by phosphodiester bonds. Above a length of about 20 nucleotides the term "polynucleotide" is generally used.
 Pathogenic agent: A pathogen is a biological agent that can cause disease to its host. A synonym of pathogen is "infectious agent". The term "pathogen" is most often used for agents that disrupt the normal physiology of a multicellular organism.
 Pellet: Sediment, when cells are present, usually includes the cell fraction, or that can be obtained by centrifuging a biological sample.
 Polymerase: Enzyme utilized in the amplification of nucleic acids. The term includes all of the variants of DNA polymerases.
 Primer: Short pre-existing polynucleotide chain to which new deoxyribonucleotides can be added by DNA polymerase.
 PCR: Polymerase Chain Reaction involving two synthetic oligonucleotide primers, which are complementary to two regions of the target DNA (one for each strand) to be amplified, are added to the target DNA (that need not be pure), in the presence of excess deoxynucleotides and Taq polymerase, a heat stable DNA polymerase. In a series (typically 30) of temperature cycles, the target DNA is repeatedly denatured (around 90° C.), annealed to the primers (typically at 50-60° C.) and a daughter strand extended from the primers (72° C.). As the daughter strands themselves act as templates for subsequent cycles, DNA fragments matching both primers are amplified exponentially, rather than linearly.
 Probe: General term for a fragment of DNA or RNA corresponding to a gene or sequence of interest, that has been labelled either radioactively or with some other detectable molecule, such as biotin, digoxygenin or fluorescein.
 Purification/Decontamination/Sterilization: Refers to a process for removing contaminants from a sample, where the result is a sample containing 60%, preferably 75%, and even more preferably 90% of the material toward which the purification procedure is directed.
 Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP): A method that allows genetic relationship established by comparing the characteristic polymorphic patterns that are obtained when certain regions of genomic DNA are amplified (typically by PCR) and cut with certain restriction enzymes. Variations in such patterns are generated by mutations that create or abolish recognition sites for these enzymes
 Sample: The term is broadly interpreted and includes any form that contains nucleic acids (DNA or RNA) in solution or attached to a solid substrate, where the definition of "nucleic acids" includes genomic DNA (for example, when it is attached to a solid substrate, such as in the Southern Blot or in solution), cDNA, and other forms.
 Combinations of two nucleic-acid sequences through hybridization are formed thanks to the hydrogen bonds between G and C or A and T bases or analogs of these bases. These combinations are complementary, and the DNA helixes are anti-parallel. This hybridization combination can be created with one sequence (or helix) in a solution and the other attached to a solid phase (such as, for example, in the FISH [fluorescent in situ hybridization] method), or else with both of the sequences in solution.
 Single-Strand Conformation Polymorphism (SSCP): SSCP is the electrophoretic separation of single-stranded nucleic acids based on subtle differences in sequence (often a single base pair) that results in a different secondary structure and a measurable difference in mobility through a gel.
 Strand Displacement Amplification (STA): STA is an isothermal, in vitro nucleic acid amplification technique based upon the ability of HincII to nick the unmodified strand of a hemiphosphorothioate form of its recognition site, and the ability of exonuclease deficient Klenow fragment of DNA Polymerase (exo- klenow) to extend the 3'-end at the nick and displace the downstream DNA strand. Exponential amplification results from coupling sense and antisense reactions in which strands displaced from a sense reaction serve as target for an antisense reaction and vice versa.
 Target sequence: Nucleic-acid sequence that should be analyzed through hybridization, amplification, or other methods or combinations of methods.
 Tm (melting temperature): Temperature at which a specific double-helix DNA population dissociates into single-strand polymers. The formula for calculating this temperature for polynucleotide fragments is well known in the art: Tm=81.5+0.41 (% G+C) (Anderson & Young, "Quantitative Filter Hybridization," in Nucleic Acid Hybridization
). For oligonucleotides with fewer than 40 base pairs, a simplified formula can be used: Tm=3° C.×(G+C)+2×(A+T).
 Tr-DNA/RNA: Transrenal DNA/RNA, or DNA/RNA present in urine after having been passed through the kidney barrier.
 Urinary tract: Includes the organs and ducts that participate in the elimination of urine from the body.
Transrenal Nucleic Acids (TrNAs) in Viral Infection
 The present invention is based on the discovery that following a viral infection, the nucleic acids of the virus(es) or of viral origin are cleaved to a relatively short fragments which cross the transrenal barrier (these nucleic acids are generally termed TrNA, or TrDNA or TrRNA) and can be detected in urine as cell-free low-molecular-weight fragments (whose length is less than 1000 nucleotides) through molecular methods. As used herein, the term "viral nucleic acid" encompasses nucleic acids of viral origin.
 The presence of transrenal nucleic acids (Tr-NA) in urine was detected previously only in hosts who had undergone heterologous tissue or organ transplants, in the case of women pregnant with male fetuses, and in the case of tumors characterized by specific marker genes. The presence of transrenal nucleic acids of viral origin in the case of viral infections according to the present invention is also, and preferably, detected in the case of non-urinary-tract infections, even in the absence of hematuria or of pathologies that lead to the rupture, or that alter the normal integrity, of the renal barrier.
 Transrenal nucleic acids (Tr-NA) of viral origin are not associated with, and are not derived from, the genome of cells that are lost or released in the urinary tract and that are found in urine. Instead, the nucleic acids according to the present invention are filtered by the glomerular-renal filtration mechanism. Thus, the dimensions of the transrenal nucleic-acid fragments are generally smaller than about 1000 base pairs, e.g., smaller than about 500, smaller than about 300, smaller than about 250, or between about 100 and about 200 base pairs, as opposed to other situations in which DNA usually has a high molecular weight and a length in excess of 1000 bases or base pairs.
 Therefore, in the present invention, the transrenal nucleic acid (TrNA) of viral origin is generally not found in the urine sediment, but in the soluble fraction, although traces of TrNA can co-sediment with the cells during centrifuging.
 Thus, the discovery makes it possible, for the first time, to confirm the presence of transrenal viral NA directly in urine, and thus is applicable to the diagnosis and monitoring of any infectious disease that has a viral etiology.
 Therefore, in embodiments, the invention relates to methods for diagnosis or monitoring of viral infection by determining the presence of viral nucleic acids, preferably viral DNA or NA of viral origin, in a urine sample. The methods includes the step of determining the presence of transrenal viral NA using methods generally used in laboratory practice such as hybridization, PCR, nested PCR, SSCP, LCR, and SDA.
 In certain embodiments, the methods according to the invention include an initial treatment of the urine sample prior to the determination of the presence of transrenal viral nucleic acids. In an embodiment, the invention includes the pretreatment of the urine sample with an agent that inhibits the degradation of the DNA or RNA. These agents include the enzymatic inhibitors, such as chelating agents, detergents, or denaturing agents, DNase or RNase inhibitors, which are preferably selected from the group consisting of EDTA, guanidine HCl, guanidine isothiocyanate, N-lauryl sarcosine, and sodium dodecyl sulfate.
 In another embodiment, the determination of the presence of transrenal viral nucleic acids optionally be preceded by centrifugation or filtration of the urine sample in order to separate the cellular fraction of the urine from the cell-free low-molecular-weight nucleic acids (DNA/RNA). However, the urine sample may also be utilized without fractionation. Centrifugation is preferably performed at a speed between 2500 g and 4500 g, and more preferably between 3000 g and 4000 g. Filtration is preferred to carry out through a filter with pore size between 0.1 and 5.0 μm, more preferably with pore size between 0.2 and 1.0 μm and even more preferably 0.45 and 0.8 μm. Equivalent methods for separating the soluble fraction from the cellular fraction may also be used.
 Yet in another further embodiment, step b) may optionally be preceded by isolation and/or purification of transrenal nucleic acids. In its turn isolation/purification step may be optionally preceded by filtration or centrifugation or equivalent technique of urine fractionation.
 The isolation and/or purification of the transrenal nucleic acids is achieved through the use of chemical or physical methods that are already known in the art. It includes one or more purification steps using methods selected from among extraction with organic solvents, filtration, precipitation, absorption on solid matrices (e.g., silica resin, hydroxyapatite or ion exchange), affinity chromatography (e.g., via sequence specific capture or nucleic acid specific ligands), or else molecular exclusion chromatography. However, the purification method must be appropriate for the isolation of DNA (single- or double-strand) whose dimensions are smaller than 1000 nucleotide pairs. Even more preferably, the purification is specific for fragments that are smaller than 500 nucleotides, and even more preferably, fragments whose length are less than 300 or 250 base pairs, or that are between 100 and 200 bases or base pairs. The purification preferably takes place on a matrix consisting but not limited to a silica resin.
 In one preferred embodiment, the DNA isolation method is implemented by pretreating the urine sample with a denaturing agent, as described above, e.g., urea, guanidine HCl, or guanidine isothiocyanate, at room temperature. Guanidine isothiocyanate is preferably utilized. The sample is then passed through a solid phase, preferably a matrix consisting of a silica resin that, in the presence of chaotropic salts (guanidine isothiocyanate), binds the nucleic acids. The sample is then collected or eluted in a buffer, such as Tris-EDTA (Tris 10 mM, EDTA 1 mM), or in water.
 In another preferred embodiment, the characterization and the determination of the presence of transrenal viral NA in step b) are performed through a technique selected from the group consisting of: hybridization of the nucleic acids, a cycling probe reaction (F. Bekkaoui et al., in BioTechniques 20:240-248
), a polymerase chain reaction (PCR Protocols: A Guide to Methods and Applications, by M. Innis et al.; Elsevier Publications, 1990), a nested polymerase chain reaction, single-strand conformation polymorphism, a ligase chain reaction (LCR) (F. Barany, in PNAS USA, 88:189-93
), strand displacement amplification (SDA) (G. K. Terrance Walker, et al., in Nucleic Acid Res, 22:2670-77
, and restriction fragments length polymorphism (RFLP). A technician in the field might also use combinations of these methods, e.g., PCR-Restriction Length Polymorphism, in which the nucleic acids are amplified, and then divided into aliquots and digested with restriction enzymes, and then separated via electrophoresis.
 Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the preferred method for the detection and/or quantitative analysis of nucleic acids. Yet more preferred is the nested PCR method, as defined above, or the semi-nested PCR method, in which only one of the two primers is internal to the amplicon.
 The advantage of the method is linked primarily to the ease of collecting the biological samples; to the fact that the transrenal nucleic acids are not infectious; and to the sensitivity of the molecular diagnostic method that can be applied to the nucleic acids, even in the form of fragments.
 The diagnostic method is applicable to all viral pathogenic agents, including RNA, DNA, episomal, or integrated viruses. It also applies to recombinant viruses, such as the adenoviruses or lentiviruses utilized in gene therapy. In particular, the method preferably applies to the following viruses: recombinant and natural HIV-1, HIV-2, variola virus, poliovirus, herpes simplex virus (HSV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and adenoviruses (AAV).
 The method is preferably applied to the HIV-1 virus, with the selection of probes or primer oligonucleotides in the GAG, POL, or TAT region for the detection. Particularly preferred pairs of primers are the ones consisting of the specific sequences for the HIV GAG region, and preferably the ones corresponding to the IDN 1-4 sequence, and the ones that are specific for the HIV-1 POL region, preferably the ones corresponding to the IDN 5-7 region, when the detection is performed via a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and, in particular, via nested (GAG) or semi-nested (POL) PCR.
 In another of its embodiments, the invention relates to a kit for the detection and monitoring of transrenal viral NA in urine, including: reagents and/or materials for the separation and/or purification of transrenal DNA from a urine sample, DNA probes, or pairs of specific oligonucleotides (primers) for at least one viral agent. Reaction tubes, agents for the pretreatment of the sample, enzymes for labeling the probe, and enzymes for the amplification of the DNA may optionally be present.
 In a preferred embodiment, the kit includes pairs of oligonucleotide primers that are specific for recombinant and natural HIV-1, HIV-2, variola virus, poliovirus, herpes simplex virus (HSV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), adenoviruses (AAV); or, yet more preferably, primers that are selected from the group consisting of the sequences listed below, and specific reagents for the polymerization chain reaction, preferably in nested or semi-nested form.
 The technician in the field may modify all of the methodology described herein with no change in the basic principal idea.
Preparation of the Urine Samples
 The method for the preparation of the urine samples and for the extraction of the DNA is described in PCT patent No. WO 98/54364, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. All of the steps of the preparation of the urine samples and of the analysis of the transrenal DNA were performed at room temperature. Briefly, approximately 50-60 ml of urine samples were collected from each patient participating in the study. Within 30 minutes after collection, a solution consisting of 0.5M EDTA and 0.5M Tris-HCl, at a pH of 8.5 and at a final concentration of 10 mM, was added in order to inhibit the nucleases that might be present in urine samples. The EDTA has the effect of inhibiting the nucleases associated with divalent ions, while the high pH inhibits the acid nucleases.
 The stabilized urine samples can be stored, in aliquots of 5 ml, at -80° C. In some instances, the samples were centrifuged for 15 minutes at 3500 g, and in this case the extraction and the analysis of the DNA were performed on both the supernatant and the sediment.
Extraction of the DNA from the Urine Samples
 In this study, no commercial kits were used to extract the DNA. In fact, most of the commercial kits utilized for DNA purification are designed to isolate high-molecular-weight DNA, starting from various types of biological material.
 Bearing in mind that transrenal DNA has a relatively low molecular weight (approximately 150-200 bp), fragments of this size can be isolated from the soluble portion of the urine, even if, in a majority of cases, the DNA is isolated from non-fractionated urine samples, because a portion of the Tr-DNA could be lost, due to the tendency of the Tr-DNA to co-sediment with cells and particulate material during the centrifugation of the urine sample.
 The transrenal DNA was isolated by adding two volumes of 6 M guanidine isothiocyanate to 5 ml of whole urine, or to an equal volume of the fractions previously obtained through centrifugation. The resulting solution was mixed vigorously.
 The soluble low-molecular-weight DNA was captured by Wizard resin (Wizard Resin Suspension, Promega), transferred to a mini-column and washed thoroughly (through repeated use of large volumes of the washing buffer supplied with the resin). The Tr-DNA was eluted with water or with 10 mM Tris-HCl at a pH of 7.5-1 mM EDTA.
Design of PCR Primers
 The primers for analysis of Tr-DNA based on the use of PCR were selected for two different sizes of the target fragment, i.e., one in the range from 60 to 120 bp and the other in the range from 250 to 400 bp. All of the primers were also compared against the complete human genome sequence. The primers were designed using the FastPCR software package (biocenter.helsinkifi/bi/bare-1_html/oligos). The primers for the nested-PCR analysis were selected using the Primer 3 package, which is available at the frodo.wi.mit.edu/cg-i-bin/primer3/primer3_www.cgi site, in such a way that the melting temperature of the internal, nested primers was not lower than that of the external primers.
 The HIV primers were selected for recognition of all 9 of the Type M HIV subtypes. In accordance with the recently revised nomenclature (i.e., the 1999 Nomenclature Proposal: [hiv.lan1.gov/content/hiv-db/HTML/reviews/ nomenclature/Nomen]), the HIV-1 M group subtypes are represented by phylogenetically associated groups of HIV-1 sequences. They are designated as A1, A2, B, C, D, F1, F2, G, H, J, and K. The M group contains viruses that represent approximately 95% of all of the cases of HIV in Europe. Complete genomic sequences of HIV-1 M group subtypes were obtained from the database at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (New Mexico, hiv.lan1.gov). The multiple alignments and the creation of consensus sequences of the various subtypes were performed through the use of ClustalX algorithm included in the BioEdit package (mbio.ncsu.edu/BioEdit/bioedit.html).
 The following primers were selected:
 GAG primers for nested PCR.
 GAG 468-F (SEQ ID NO: 1): TGGGTAAAAGTAATAGAGGAGAAGGC; GAG 602-R (SEQ ID NO: 2): AACATTTGCATGGCTGCTT.
 Product: 134 bp.
 GAG 518-F (SEQ ID NO: 3): CAGCATTATCAGAAGGAGCCACC; GAG 596-R (SEQ ID NO: 4): TGCATGGCTGCTTGATGTCC.
 Product: 79 bp.
 POL primers for semi-nested-PCR, short amplicon
 External primers:
 POL 4368-F (SEQ ID NO: 5): GGRGAAGCCWTGCATGGAC; POL 4468-R (SEQ ID NO: 6): GCTACATGRACTGCTACCAG.
 Product: 102 bp.
 Internal primers:
 POL 4368-F (SEQ ID NO: 5): GGRGAAGCCWTGCATGGAC; POL 4427-Rn (SEQ ID NO: 7): TGTRCAATCTARTTGCCATATYCCTGG.
 Product: 60 bp.
 POL primers for semi-nested-PCR, long amplicon
 External primers:
 POL 4368-F (SEQ ID NO: 5): GGRGAAGCCWTGCATGGAC POL 4678-R (SEQ ID NO: 8): ACTCCYTGRCTTTGGGGATTG
 Product: 311 bp.
 Internal primers (nested):
 POL 4368-F (SEQ ID NO: 5): GGRGAAGCCWTGCATGGAC POL 4427-Rn (SEQ ID NO: 7): TGTRCAATCTARTTGCCATATYCCTGG.
 Product: 60 bp.
 TAT primers for semi-nested PCR (long amplicon)
 External primers:
 TAT 5955-F (SEQ ID NO: 9): GCTTAGGCATYTCCTATGGCAG TAT 6462-R (SEQ ID NO: 10): TGGGGTCTGTKGGTACACAGG.
 Product: 569 bp.
 Internal primers:
 TAT 6330-Fn (SEQ ID NO: 11): CWGTHTAYTATGGRGTACCTGTGTGG TAT 6462-R (SEQ ID NO: 10): TGGGGTCTGTKGGTACACAGG.
 Product: 132 bp.
Diagnosis of HIV-1 Infection Based on TrDNA
 The DNA was isolated from the urine samples of 10 patients infected with HIV, as described in the preceding examples. These patients were clinically diagnosed as being infected with HIV through the use of standard clinical molecular tests to detect the presence of antibodies that are specific for the HIV virus.
 FIG. 1 shows the electrophoresis of the HIV-1 DNA fragments, as amplified via nested PCR, with the above-indicated two pairs of GAG-specific primers, in accordance with the method described in the invention. A band whose dimensions correspond to the ones that were expected as the result of the nested PCR amplification--as performed with the use of the 468/602 pair of primers in the first amplification, followed by the 518/596 pair (79 bp)--was observed in the urine of 8 of the 10 patients and in the positive controls, but not in the negative controls.
 Table 1 indicates the viral load of each of the patients who were analyzed, from which it can be inferred that in the case of the samples (numbers 2 and 3) that were negative upon amplification, the viral load was lower than 50 copies of the virus per ml of plasma.
TABLE-US-00009 TABLE 1 Viral load of the HIV-infected patients. Patient No. Infection HIV load 1 HIV 120,000 2 HIV <50 3 HIV <50 4 HIV 867 5 HIV 88,000 6 HIV 8,370 7 HIV 32,046 8 HIV + HCV 500,000 9 HIV 15,822 10 HIV + HCV <50 The viral load was determined by measuring the quantity of the HIV-specific RNA via RT-PCR in the plasma.
The apparent sensitivity of the nested PCR was evaluated by amplifying, with the same pair of primers, an 8E5 LAV cell line genomic DNA carrying a single integrated copy of the HIV genome. The sensitivity was determined to be 5 genome equivalents.
TABLE-US-00010 Sequence list GAG 468-F (seq. No. 1): TGGGTAAAAGTAATAGAGGAGAAGGC; GAG 602-R (seq. No. 2): AACATTTGCATGGCTGCTT; GAG 518-F (seq. No. 3): CAGCATTATCAGAAGGAGCCACC; GAG 596-R (seq. No. 4): TGCATGGCTGCTTGATGTCC. POL 4368-F (seq. No. 5): GGR*GAAGCCW*TGCATGGAC; POL 4468-R (seq. No. 6): GCTACATGR*ACTGCTACCAG; POL 4427-Rn (seq. No. 7): TGTRCAATCTARTTGCCATATY*CCTGG POL 4678-R (seq. No. 8): ACTCCY*TGR*CTTTGGGGATTG TAT 5955-F (seq. No. 9): GCTTAGGCATY*TCCTATGGCAG TAT 6462-R (seq. No. 10): TGGGGTCTGTK*GGTACACAGG TAT 6330-Fn (seq. No. 11): CW*GTHTAY*TATGGRGTACCTGTGTGG Nucleotides indicated by an asterisk (*) indicate degenerate nucleotides known to those skilled in the art.
 Although particular embodiments have been disclosed herein in detail, this has been done by way of example for purposes of illustration only, and is not intended to be limiting with respect to the precise form of the disclosed invention or to the scope of the appended claims that follow. In particular, it is contemplated by the inventors that various substitutions, alterations, and modifications may be made to the invention without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the claims. Various alterations and modifications of the invention are believed to be a matter of routine for a person of ordinary skill in the art with knowledge of the embodiments described herein. Other aspects, advantages, and modifications considered to be within the scope of the following claims.
11126DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 1tgggtaaaag taatagagga gaaggc 26219DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 2aacatttgca tggctgctt 19323DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 3cagcattatc agaaggagcc acc 23420DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 4tgcatggctg cttgatgtcc 20519DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 5ggrgaagccw tgcatggac 19620DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 6gctacatgra ctgctaccag 20727DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 7tgtrcaatct arttgccata tycctgg 27821DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 8actccytgrc tttggggatt g 21922DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 9gcttaggcat ytcctatggc ag 221021DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 10tggggtctgt kggtacacag g 211126DNAArtificial sequenceOligonucleotide primer 11cwgthtayta tggrgtacct gtgtgg 26
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