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'Quickie' tests for bird flu outbreaks

by 5m Editor
10 March 2004, at 12:00am

AUSTRALIA - In an effort to protect Australia from an outbreak of avian influenza, CSIRO Livestock Industries and the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (AB-CRC) are developing 'quickie' diagnostic tests for the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

'Quickie' tests for bird flu outbreaks - AUSTRALIA - In an effort to protect Australia from an outbreak of avian influenza, CSIRO Livestock Industries and the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre (AB-CRC) are developing 'quickie' diagnostic tests for the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

Recent outbreaks of H5N1 in South East Asia have caused the deaths of 22 people and the deaths or culling of more than 100 million birds.

CEO of the AB-CRC, Dr Stephen Prowse, says the spread of the virus from domestic poultry to humans is a major concern to disease control managers world-wide. At this stage there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from person to person.

"H5N1 kills birds rapidly and can infect humans that come in close contact with infected birds," Dr Prowse says.

"Should the virus reach Australia, rapid diagnostic tests would ensure appropriate control and public health measures are implemented quickly."

As the new tests will be based on molecular technologies it is expected that the two to three days it currently takes to detect H5N1 will be reduced to less than six hours.

"The tests should be available for use in laboratories by September 2004," Dr Prowse says.

"Although Australia is well prepared to detect and respond to outbreaks of avian influenza, having the tests on-hand by then will be important because that's when wild birds which are known to carry the virus, migrate to Australia from the Northern Hemisphere."

The new tests will be developed within the microbiologically secure environment of CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria.

AAHL Director, Dr Martyn Jeggo, says the tests will be developed using technologies such as real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

"The technologies will be used to unravel the genetic sequence of H5N1 and ensure that all the new tests work rapidly and specifically in identifying this strain of the virus," Dr Jeggo says.

Some of the new tests and reagents will be made available to Australian and South East Asian diagnostic laboratories.

The AB-CRC was established in 2003 under the Federal Government's CRC Program to build national capacity to respond to emerging infectious disease threats.

Source: CSIRO Australia - 9th March 2004
© Copyright CSIRO Australia

5m Editor