SINGAPORE, Sept. 23, 2007 - Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) and Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) have successfully developed a miniaturized device that can be used to detect the highly pathogenic avian flu (H5N1) virus.
If successfully commercialized, this device could be deployed in affected regions for pre-emptive surveillance of nascent avian flu epidemic.
According to project leader and lead author of the Nature Medicine publication, IBN Research Scientist Dr Juergen Pipper, "With our device, medical or humanitarian aid workers would be able to detect the presence of the H5N1 virus directly from throat swab samples on-site in less than half an hour."
With early warning, a potential avian flu epidemic can be averted. Avian influenza is now entrenched in Asia, with sporadic human infections resulting from either direct contact with infected birds or limited human-to-human transmission. Globalization and seasonal avian migration patterns have resulted in the disease spreading rapidly to other parts of the world.
The device comprises a unique platform developed by IBN that uses magnetic force to manipulate individual droplets containing silica-coated magnetic particles.
"The novelty of our method lies in the way that the droplet itself becomes a pump, valve, mixer, solid-phase extractor and real-time thermocycler. Complex biochemical tasks can thus be processed in a fashion similar to that of a traditional biological laboratory on a miniature scale," explained Dr Pipper.
The all-in-one droplet-based device is superior to commercially available solutions as it integrates the entire workflow of viral RNA isolation, purification, preconcentration, and detection.
Tests have shown that IBN's platform is as sensitive as, and around 10 times faster than available tests, yet it could potentially be 40 to 100 times c
|Contact: Cathy Yarbrough|
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore