New developments in fight against bird flu
Published:  19 August, 2008

UK scientists are developing a portable testing machine, which they claim will detect cases of bird flu in two hours.

It currently takes around a week to identify different flu strains, due to the need for laboratory testing. Researchers at Nottingham Trent University say their equipment - designed to be used at the scene of an outbreak - will enable far quicker identification of avian flu in humans.

The machine, which is being developed with £2.3m of funding from the EU, identifies specific bird flu strains from molecules in a swab of saliva.

A machine capable of rapidly identifying bird flu in humans would be invaluable in the event of a global epidemic of the H5N1 strain of the disease, which is often fatal.

Dr Alan McNally, from Nottingham Trent University, told the BBC: "There's a large train of thought that one of the best ways of dealing with avian influenza is by detection and containment.

"The ability to detect and type the influenza virus immediately is essential in setting up controls as quickly as possible to minimise the spread of any potential pandemic virus."

In America, a recent study has found that survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic in Spain can still produce antibodies which destroy the flu virus. All 32 of the people examined had the antibodies in their blood and some even had the cells which produce the antibodies.

Dr James Crowe, of Vanderbilt University, said that the study - which was published in the scientific journal Nature - might help with the development of treatments for bird flu in the future.

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