The go ahead has been given by the World Health Organization (WHO) towards developing a bird flu test kit aimed at pinpointing the H5N1 strain in just a matter of three hours. The developers of the kit are based in Singapore. The kit from Veredus Laboratories, launched in July, was found by the WHO Collaborating Center for Influenza in Australia to be highly specific to the deadly bird flu strain, in addition to being extremely sensitive.
More tests are still needed on the kit, company sources said, to make sure it works on the slightly different strains of the H5N1 virus found in Europe. Chief Executive Rosemary Tan said the Singapore facility, which can produce 100,000 kits a month, has sold them to countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The kit was used last month in Indonesia to detect human cases, a research scientist said. Veredus' success lies in the test kit's primers, bits of genetic material unique to the H5N1 strain, which anchor onto their identical portions of the gene in virus samples, the company said. These are magnified through a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), enabling even minute amounts of the virus to be detected in infected humans and fowl.