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Real-time bird flu detector developed

15 August, 2008  

A machine which can identify different types of bird flu and is portable enough to be used anywhere in a hospital is being developed by British scientists.

The team at Nottingham Trent University say the machine will be able to identify different types of bird flu – including the potentially fatal H5N1 strain – within two hours. This is much quicker than the current tests and would significantly help hospital managers to identify and isolate a potential outbreak.

The technology works by recognising molecules from a swab of human saliva or animal tissue, before identifying if it is infected with bird flu and if so which strain is present.

The university says the technology will mean officials can set up exclusion zones and cull infected birds far quicker.

Dr Alan McNally, a former avian flu researcher for the Government who is working on the project, said: “The key thing about this is that the process will be fully automated so there is no requirement for a skilled person to use the technology.

“At present, tests have to be sent to a lab where you need fully trained personnel and that’s where the hold-up occurs.”

He added: “There’s a large train of thought that one of the best ways of dealing with avian influenza is by detection and containment.”

The £2.3 million project, known as Portfastflu, is being funded by the European Union.

Copyright PA Business 2008

Nottingham Trent University