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UK Develops Bird Flu Tests
Wed 15 September, 2004 18:27

By Richard Woodman

LONDON (Agence de Presse Medicale) - Britain's Health Protection Agency said on Wednesday it had developed two diagnostic tests to detect bird flu in case the outbreaks seen in poultry spread to humans.

Professor Pat Troop, Chief Executive of the agency, said, "Following the continued outbreaks among poultry in Asia, the threat of an avian flu pandemic is ever more real and the Agency is committed to ensuring it has the capacity to respond should person-to-person transmission occur and human cases are seen in the UK."

It is essential that "we have the ability to diagnose the disease quickly so as to respond as effectively as possible," Troop added

Speaking about the new diagnostic tests, Dr Maria Zambon, Director of the Influenza laboratory at the Agency said, "We have a rapid test, called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is capable of identifying the virus and therefore showing us if a person is infected with a strain of avian flu in a matter of hours."

The agency has also developed another test "which identifies if people have been exposed to avian flu by measuring the antibody response that they produce after coming into contact with the virus," Zambon continued.

"Such tests are needed because the ones used for normal human flu strains are not sensitive enough," she explained. Also, antibody tests "can be used to see how effective vaccines are against avian flu strains."

This test is currently only used by the agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., "but could be deployed to any other countries which experience outbreaks of avian flu among humans."