Singapore's bird flu detector24th September 2007
A research team in the southeast Asian city state of Singapore has developed a hand-held device which they say can detect the presence of avian influenza in a quick and simple test.
The device can identify the presence of the H5N1 bird flu virus within 30 minutes, they report in Nature Medicine.
The device tests throat swabs taken from patients, and is able to isolate, purify, and then amplify viral DNA from the samples, and recognise bird flu.
Currently available tests take several hours to get a result at the very least. The containment of an outbreak of bird flu, should it mutate to a form able to easily infect humans and to be transmitted between them, would depend on the speed of response in the early stages of any outbreak.
The research team from the city state's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology said the new kit could be used to test people on the spot, either at the point of infection in a new outbreak, or at airports and other transport hubs.
Their device -- which they have dubbed a 'mini-lab' -- is 440% faster than other tests on the market at the moment, and just as sensitive, according to the article.
In tests, a prototype of the device delivered accurate results within 28 minutes when tested on samples of the H5N1 virus, they said.
So far, the 328 humans who have been confirmed infected with H5N1 since 2003 have had some contact with sick poultry. Of these, 200 have died.
Although current forms of the virus are more dangerous to birds than to humans, and find it hard to cross the species barrier, experts fear the virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans and spark a pandemic, killing millions globally.
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