Singapore research collaborators recently demonstrated a lab-on-a-chip that can detect avian flu (H5N1) in less than 30 minutes. Lab-on-a-chip bird flu tests, created by the University of Colorado, have been validated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for U.S. medical clinics. Now Asia, where influenza is entrenched in poultry according to the Singapore researchers, has access to a flu chip, too.
The lab-on-a-chip was developed by Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Collaborators there propose that medical- and humanitarian-aid workers throughout Asia head off a global pandemic by performing routine examinations using the while-you-wait test.
The Singapore researchers' lab-on-a-chip only requires that a throat swab be taken by the medical- and humanitarian-aid workers. After transferring the sample to the device, it is mixed with silica-coated magnetic nanoparticles so it can be routed around the microfluid device with magnetic force. According to the researchers, they have devised ways to use magnetic force to perform the functions of a pump, valve, mixer, solid-phase extractor and real-time thermocycler. All the complex steps in the medical test are preprogrammed into the lab-on-a-chip, enabling the integration in a single platform of all the steps needed for viral RNA isolation from the sample, its purification, preconcentration, and detection--in less than 30 minutes.
The collaborators also said that their design for the lab-on-a-chip enables it to be quickly adapted by medical personnel to SARS, HIV, hepatitis B, or other future threats.
Asia has a greater need for a flu chips than does the U.S. where there have been no reported cases yet. In Asia, there have been 201 human cases of avian flu, according to the World Health Organization--most resulting in death. Worst hit has been Indonesia, where 108 cases have resulted in 87 deaths. Unfortunately, avian migration patterns have spread the flu outside Asia, with deaths already reported in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.