Thursday, December 21, 2006

Companies to develop rapid tests for avian flu

Health professionals will someday be able to tell in a matter of minutes whether your case of sniffles is due to avian flu or seasonal flu, once plans announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention come to fruition.

CDC awarded $11.4 million in contracts last week to four companies to develop tests to quickly and accurately test patients for the H5N1 virus.

The four companies –- MesoScale, Gaithersburg, Md.; Iquum, Marlborough, Mass.; Cepheid, Sunnyvale, Calif.; and Nanogen, San Diego -- will work during the next year to create tests that will differentiate avian flu from seasonal flu within 30 minutes.

CDC officials said they hope to have the tests approved and put on the market by the Food and Drug Administration within two to three years.

The tests could give public health experts around the world critical information on existing flu viruses and help monitor viruses that could cause a global flu pandemic, according to CDC. Currently, rapid diagnostic tests can only determine if a patient is infected with the seasonal A or B flu viruses, but not H5N1, the avian fu virus that has killed 154 people in 11 countries.

"These contracts will support development of promising technology that could help doctors treat their patients faster and help public health authorities track influenza viruses that could spur a pandemic," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC's director.

For more information on pandemic preparedness, visit or

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