Public Release: 

McMaster virologist develops avian flu test

McMaster University

A diagnostic test that detects all the major human respiratory viruses, including H5N1 (Avian Flu) and SARS Corona, has been developed by a virologist at McMaster University, and is about to undergo clinical evaluation. It is expected that the test will be available for evaluation by hospital-based laboratories by early December.

Jim Mahony and his lab at McMaster University collaborated with Tm Bioscience Corporation, a Toronto-based company that conducts genetic testing, says the test reduces the laborious and long process involved in acquiring definitive results.

"This test could play a major role during an outbreak or epidemic by clearly identifying infected individuals early in the outbreak and limiting the spread of virus in the community," said Mahony, director of the McMaster University Regional Virology and Chlamydiology Laboratory at St. Joseph's healthcare, and president of the Pan American Society for Clinical Virology. "It will assist public health authorities in determining which specific virus, if any, is present in a patient who is presenting flu symptoms."

Mahony's lab provided the genetic sequences for the probes and primers to build the test and assisted in establishing key test parameters for the detection of the individual viruses. His lab continues to work with Tm Bioscience to assess performance characteristics of the test using clinical specimens.

Tm Bioscience plans to launch successive versions of its Upper Respiratory Infectious Disease Panel over time. The first version of the panel, which detects and differentiates among various strains of Respiratory Syncitial Virus (RSV), SARS Corona Virus, Parainfluenza and Influenza Virus A/B including H5N1 (Avian Flu), is currently being tested. It will be available for evaluation by hospital- based laboratories and reference laboratories by early December.

Subsequent versions of the test will be expanded to include additional viruses and may identify specific mutant variants of the H5N1 virus that are capable of human-to-human transmission or that develop Tamiflu® resistance.


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