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. Response To Develop Rapid Bird-Flu Test

Approximately 60 people have died from the disease, and health experts worry the virus could become better adapted at infecting people and cause a global outbreak that could kill millions of people.

Washington (UPI) Oct 24, 2005
Response Biomedical, the manufacturer of a rapid test for detecting anthrax, said Monday it plans to develop another such test for the deadly strain of bird flu now spreading across Asia and other regions of the world, because current rapid flu tests are not considered reliable for this particular strain.

Response, in Vancouver, said its RAMP Flu A test performed well in a preliminary evaluation, and international public health authorities have expressed interest in developing it further.

Response "is expediting the development of the RAMP Flu A Test," Bill Radvak, the company's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"Given the current epidemic of avian flu among bird populations and broad recognition that more sensitive rapid screening tools are required in both human and bird applications, we've received keen interest from leading international health authorities in further validating our RAMP Platform," Radvak added.

"As a result, we are pursuing multiple collaborations with leading health care organizations, potential distributors and development partners aimed at reducing healthcare costs and improving patient outcomes," he said.

The bird-flu strain known as H5N1 has infected commercial poultry and wild birds across Asia, and it appears to be spreading. In addition to recent detection of H5N1 in birds in Russia, Turkey, Romania and Croatia, it was discovered just last week in a dead parrot in the United Kingdom.

Approximately 60 people have died from the disease, and health experts worry the virus could become better adapted at infecting people and cause a global outbreak that could kill millions of people.

Rapid testing could improve the treatment of patients by enabling physicians to start them on anti-viral medications sooner, allowing quicker quarantine of those who test positive.

The World Health Organization appears to agree about the need for accurate rapid tests for detecting bird flu.

WHO spokesman Daniel Epstein told United Press International the agency sent a document about preparedness for an outbreak of bird flu to health ministers around the world. It detailed the limitations of rapid flu tests for detecting the H5N1 strain of the disease.

"As of November 2004, many of the available rapid test kits were not sufficiently sensitive or specific for routine diagnostic use, and none could perform sub-typing," the WHO document stated. "These kits may be used for outbreak investigation only, when there is no other option, and are not recommended for patient diagnosis."

Response said its test "is capable of producing highly sensitive and reliable information that is unprecedented in commercially available rapid immunoassays."

In addition to its anthrax test, the company also manufactures a test for detecting West Nile virus in mosquitoes and birds and a test for detecting heart attacks.

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