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HudsonAlpha investigator develops rapid response swine flu test

Huntsville, Ala. Dr. Jian Han, faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, has completed development of a rapid response, molecular-level assay for swine flu, the current strain of the H1N1 family of the influenza virus. The test, which can confirm swine flu in less than six hours, will be incorporated into a viral respiratory panel made available by Diatherix Laboratories. The panel will detect the current strain of swine flu, as well as Influenza A, Influenza B and other viruses.

Because of the potential for the current strain of virus to mutate, Han, who holds both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, included four swine flu targets in the diagnostic tool. "So even if there is some molecular-level mutation and one or two targets are rendered useless, we still have other targets that will provide a correct answer," said Han.

The proprietary technology used in the Diatherix panel is called Target Enriched Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction (Tem-PCR). Tem-PCR, originally developed by Han, has the capability to identify multiple pathogens, both viral and bacterial. This technology can test for multiple genetic targets at one time and is the only rapid molecular test that can subtype multiple viral and bacterial strains in a single test.

According to Dennis Grimaud, chief executive officer for Diatherix Laboratories, the viral respiratory panel allows physicians to quickly distinguish between patients who have swine flu and those who present with similar symptoms. "This enables physicians to provide proper therapy in a timely manner," noted Grimaud. "A rapid confirmation can also mitigate many of the negative economic and social impacts associated with infectious disease outbreaks," he added, "ranging from school closures to reductions in retail traffic, travel and tourism."

Diatherix is currently making the test available to hospitals, private physician practices and public health departments. Patient samples for the viral respiratory panel are provided from a nasal swab. Members of the general public who are interested in the test should contact a local physician or healthcare facility.

Han also developed the Tem-PCR avian flu test for the Asian strain H5N1, as well as a respiratory infection differentiation test used during the SARS outbreak in China earlier this decade. These tests played a significant role in preventing the spread of SARS and avian flu in Asia.


Contact: Holly Ralston McClain
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology

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