Made-in-Singapore H5N1 bird flu diagnostic kit

SINGAPORE - A made-in-Singapore H5N1 bird flu diagnostic kit has been developed that detects all know strains of H5N1 virus with a single test with almost 100 per cent accuracy.

It was the work of a collaboration between scientists from the Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) under the Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*STAR) and clinicians from Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).

The current gold standard for H5N1 detection recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is only able to detect three out of the 10 distinct genetic groups (clades 1, 2 and 3).

The Singapore test kit is the only detection kit currently available on the market that can accurately and rapidly detect all known strains of the H5N1 Avian Influenza A virus in a single test within a matter of hours.

Co-developed by Dr Masafumi Inoue, a Senior Research Scientist and Project Director of Technology Development from ETC and Dr Timothy Barkham, a senior consultant of Laboratory Medicine from TTSH, this newly launched H5N1 test kit has been clinically validated by several hospitals in Southeast Asia.

Local enterprise AITbiotech, a regional provider of genomic services and molecular diagnostics kits, has recently signed a licence agreement with Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL) - the technology transfer arm of A*STAR - to market this H5N1 kit regionally.

To enhance its usability, this new H5N1 test kit is also designed to be compatible with the previously launched "4-plex" Influenza diagnostic kit.

The latter is already adopted for use by several regional hospitals in Thailand.

This is expected to save hospital labs and clinicians significant time and cost.

Highly lethal and contagious strains like H5N1 Avian Influenza A virus can jump from birds to human, and have been reported to cause serious infections and even death rates as high as 60 per cent in infected patients.

Although anti-viral treatment is available, the potential for H5N1 bird flu virus to spark a pandemic remains a serious threat to public health as most people do not have immunity to the H5N1 virus.

Therefore, to successfully curb the spread of the disease during an outbreak, accuracy and speed of detection on the type of H5N1 virus is of essence for effective infection control intervention and patient management, researchers said.

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