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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 September 2007, 22:21 GMT 23:21 UK
Quick test for bird flu devised
Poultry trader in south-east Asia. File photo
The H5N1 virus is highly contagious to birds
Scientists in Singapore say they have created a hand-held device that can detect the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus within 30 minutes.

They say it is able to isolate, purify and amplify the viral DNA from throat swab samples and then identify it.

The hope is that the kit could help contain any outbreak much easier, as other available tests take at least several hours to produce results.

Nearly 200 people have died from the H5N1 strain worldwide.

'440% faster'

Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, the team of scientists from Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology says the new kit will be able to test people rapidly at the point of infection or at transport centres.

They say the device is "equally sensitive and is 440% faster and 2,000-5,000% cheaper" than commercially available tests.

The so-called mini-lab will be especially useful where basic health resources are lacking, the scientists say.

They add that the prototype has delivered accurate results within 28 minutes when tested on samples of the H5N1 virus.

The virus is highly contagious to birds. Although experts say the disease cannot easily jump the species barrier, there are fears it will mutate into a virus that can be transmitted from human to human.


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