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New U. of Colorado at Boulder flu chip may help combat future epidemics, pandemics

A novel "Flu Chip" developed at the University of Colorado at Boulder that can determine the genetic signatures of specific influenza strains from patient samples within hours may help world health officials combat coming epidemics and pandemics.

Tests last month on the new technology by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta showed the CU-Boulder Flu Chip can determine the genetic make-up of types and subtypes of the flu virus in about 11 hours, said CU-Boulder Professor Kathy Rowlen of the chemistry and biochemistry department. Current methods for characterizing flu subtypes infecting patients take about four days.

The Flu Chip is expected to be in wide use in laboratories within a year, said Rowlen, who has led the two-year CU-Boulder research effort.

Rowlen, who is working on the Flu Chip development with CU-Boulder chemistry Professor Robert Kuchta and a team of postdoctoral researchers and students, said they are conferring with CU's Technology Transfer Office and plan to make the Flu Chip genetic sequences freely available to interested researchers.

There currently are less than 200 facilities worldwide that provide detailed strain analysis of influenza, said Rowlen. Strain identification is critical for tracking emerging strains and in determining which flu strains are most likely to infect people the following year in order to develop annual, preventative vaccines, she said.

"This new technology should help provide better global influenza surveillance by making it easier for more laboratories to swiftly identify severe flu strains, which in turn may aid health officials to stem potential flu epidemics and even pandemics," Rowlen said.

The chip, which can be configured to test for all known flu virus strains as well as new variant strains, was evaluated for three primary subtypes of flu in the October CDC test -- the avian flu strain H5N1, and two of the most common human flu types worldwide
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Source:University of Colorado at Boulder


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