Chip test quick for bird flu
Scientists have developed a detailed influenza test that takes less
than 12 hours to provide a result, speeding up the diagnosis of the most
dangerous avian flu, according to US federal health
The new technology is a microchip covered with bits of genetic material from
many different flu strains. Using the chip cuts diagnosis time from a week or
more to less than a day, and it usually reveals which flu an animal or person
has, rather than a simple positive or negative result.
That means that public health officials investigating a flu outbreak in
poultry or in humans will be able to decide quickly whether to kill thousands of
birds or to treat hundreds of potentially exposed people with expensive
Right now, ascertaining whether bird
flu is of the lethal H5N1 strain requires that a sample be frozen and
shipped to a highly secure laboratory, of which there are few, where the virus
can be grown in eggs, isolated and genetically sequenced, a process that takes
four to five days plus shipping time.
The new test, called FluChip, can be performed in any laboratory that can
amplify bits of genetic material; many countries have such laboratories in their
national capitals. Samples need not be frozen, and because only bits of genetic
material are multiplied rather than whole viruses, the work can be done in
laboratories with lower biosecurity levels.
Nancy J Cox, chief of the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention in Atlanta, said the chip "really allows us to get a lot of
information about a virus in a short time".
Dr Anthony S Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which
announced the creation of the test, called it an "encouraging advance" that
could be "invaluable to international flu surveillance efforts".
A more advanced version may be ready within two years, said Kathy L
Rowlen, the University of Colorado
chemistry professor who led the team that developed the
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