Avian Bird Flu or the Common Flu? New Micro-chip Technology offers Quick diagnosis of Flu Strains

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Avian Bird Flu or the Common Flu?  New Micro-chip Technology offers Quick diagnosis of Flu Strains

A microchip-based test is being developed by scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which will be able to help labs pinpoint the influenza virus strain in a sick patient. The micro-chip technology is able to detect 72 different influenza strains, including the H5N1 Avian Bird Flu virus. The test can complete within a 12 hour time frame. Lead author Kathy L. Rowlen, Ph.D., a University of Colorado scientist has reported the result of this micro-chip technology in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

The FluChip technology would be able to be used in lower level biosafety facilities. This technology would be able to help diagnose flu strains in geographic regions and also test both human and non-human sources.

"The ability to quickly and accurately identify strains of influenza would be invaluable to international flu surveillance efforts," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "This is an encouraging advance."

"This state-of-the-art research is vital to our efforts to protect the nation's health, and it may provide a new tool in our toolbox in the fight against influenza," says CDC Director Julie Gerberding, M.D. "This is an excellent example of the advances we can achieve when governmental and academic researchers work together, and we look forward to future collaboration."

The FluChip is based on the microarray technology which is known as a gene chip. A robotic arm can test hundreds or thousands of genetic material DNA or RNA on a microscope slide. If a person was being tested for a flu strain, this microarray would match the gene sequence of the bacteria or virus in the sample against a database of known flu viruses.

"Our goal was to develop an efficient method for mining large databases to identify regions of the flu genome that are largely the same from strain to strain as well as strain-specific sequences," Dr. Rowlen says.

In order to build the database of flu gene sequences the scientists isolated 55 flu RNA sequences to use as probes on the FluChip. These probes help to isolate the common flu strains and also H1N1, H3N2, and also the H5N1 avian flu strain.

"We were surprised and pleased at how well the chip performed in these early tests," says Dr. Rowlen.

The scientists have a goal to improve the FluChip technology for faster diagnosis of the flu strains. At this time it takes 12 hours, their goal is to detect the flu strain in less than one hour’s time.

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