Diagnostic kit for H5N1 bird flu detects all virus strains

The Agency for Science and Technology Research and the Experimental Therapeutics Center in Singapore have developed a comprehensive H5N1 bird flu kit that rapidly detects all strains of the virus within a few hours.

The center and the agency worked with clinicians from Tan Tock Seng Hospital to develop the test. By increasing the speed and accuracy of detection for the deadly avian flu virus, the disease can be more effectively controlled and patients can be managed more successfully.

"We are excited to be able to contribute to the fight against H5N1 virus with our expertise and know-how," Masafumi Inoue, a co-developer of the kit, said. "Our technology has greatly simplified and accelerated the process of detection and identification of new H5N1 variants. Such information is especially critical when the virus mutates to become more dangerous, such as in drug resistance."

The H5N1 real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction assay uses multiplex assays to allow for simultaneous differentiation and detection of different influenza types in one test, saving cost and time.

"While there have not been any reported H5N1 cases in Singapore, this mutating subtype of influenza virus type A continues to be a concern," Timothy Barkham, the other co-developer of the test, said. "The ability to detect and characterize influenza strains remains important in the management of the disease. With this latest H5N1 assay, we can easily combine it with our previous 4-plex Influenza kit to differentiate which strain of Influenza is present with one test, giving a definite diagnosis and faster turnaround for our patients and our colleagues in infection control and public health."

The test has been clinically validated by multiple hospitals in southeast Asia.