Federal Health Officials said on Monday that scientist have developed a new test called FluChip, a detailed influenza test, which speeds up diagnosis of the most dangerous avian flu to less than 12 hours.
The test can be performed in any laboratory that can amplify bits of genetic material, and it comprises of a microchip covered with bits of genetic material from many different flu strains that can reveal which flu a human or an animal has. The test will enable public health officials to quickly decide on the appropriate actions to be taken in case of a bird flu outbreak.
The existing tests requires more than four to five days to establish a diagnosis and also requires that the sample be frozen and shipped to a high security laboratory, where the virus can be grown in eggs, isolated and then genetically sequenced. The new test, however, does not require that the samples be frozen and also because only bits of genetic material, rather than the whole virus, are multiplied it can be done in laboratories with low biosecurity levels.
The Chief of the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Nancy J. Cox, said the chip "really allows us to get a lot of information about a virus in a short time."
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, called it an "encouraging advance" that could be "invaluable to international flu-surveillance efforts."
The University of Colorado Chemistry Professor, Kathy L. Rowlen, who led the team that developed the test, said a more advanced version might be ready within two years.