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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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New Bird Flu Test Works Quickly

Inexpensive New Test Can Spot Bird Flu Virus From Throat Swab in 30 Minutes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 24, 2007 -- Scientists have developed a new bird flu test that can detect the H5N1 bird flu virus within 30 minutes from a throat swab.

To contain a bird flu epidemic, it's essential to detect and contain bird flu (also called avian influenza) as quickly as possible.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization noted that it has received reports of 328 confirmed human cases of bird flu, including 200 deaths, worldwide since 2003.

Most of those cases have occurred in Asia. None have happened in the U.S.

Currently available bird flu tests take four hours to work, according to Juergen Pipper, PhD, of the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore.

Pipper's team says their new bird flu test also costs 2,000% to 5,000% less than current bird flu tests, which could be a boon to developing countries without big budgets for bird flu.

The test requires the patient to get their throat swabbed. Health care workers would take a droplet from the throat swab and put the droplet on a no-stick surface that spins like a CD.

The test uses what are called "superparamagnetic particles" to hunt for the H5N1 virus, and the whole process "is completed in less than 28 minutes," the scientists write in Nature Medicine.

They suggest that their technique could make a good platform to test for other infectious diseases.

For instance, Pipper's team writes that the test "could easily be adapted for other infectious diseases, such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), HIV, and hepatitis B."

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