Saturday, September 09, 2006

CDC announces test distinguishing bird flu

USA TODAY

CDC announces test distinguishing bird flu
Posted 8/28/2006 9:06 PM ET
ATLANTA (AP) — Scientists have developed a biological microchip test designed to help laboratories better identify if a person has bird flu.

The Flu Chip test was developed by the University of Colorado and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is detailed in the current issue of a scientific publication, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Earlier this year, federal officials announced a lab test that within four hours can evaluate whether a person has the type of bird flu circulating in Asia.

But the test doesn't say much beyond positive or negative. The new test, which takes about 12 hours, can identify the specific subtype of the disease and name the virus's geographic origin.

"This test provides a lot more information," said Kathy Rowlen, a University of Colorado scientist who led the research.

It should help national and international diseases investigators, "who want to track all subtypes of influenza that are infecting people," she added.

In the Flu Chip test, a robotic arm drops spots of various flu viruses' genetic material onto a microscope slide. The 55 spots are each one-hundredth of an inch in diameter. The slide is immersed in a liquid containing flu gene fragments from an infected person. Scientists watch to see if genetic material from the infected person binds to any of the material on the slide, indicating a match.

The Flu Chip allowed users to obtain correct information about both type and subtype — which is considered a full characterization of a strain — from 72% of the samples, according to an evaluation of the test.

The test can help identify emerging viruses, and can be designed to distinguish between the genetic groups — or "clades" — of bird flu, said Dr. Nancy Cox, director of the CDC's Influenza Division.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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