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Westmead leads Australian bird flu research

Researchers at Westmead Millennium Institute are conducting urgent research into bird flu.

Avian Influenza (commonly known as bird flu) poses a serious threat to global health with experts predicting it could seriously affect millions of people worldwide.

In response to the urgent need for knowledge about this virulent flu strain, researchers at Westmead Millennium Institute (WMI) are investigating ways of rapidly and accurately detecting the virus whilst monitoring it's spread in human populations.

A/Prof Jon Iredell and his team are creating a portable diagnostic system that can identify the presence of bird flu in a human sample within 2 hours.

This project has been established in partnership with the University of Sydney and Corbett Research.

"This beauty of this technology is that it is flexible and highly sensitive" explains A/Prof Jon Iredell. "This means it can be adapted to make precise diagnosis in an individual or to test a planeload passengers in a couple of hours"

"We can also use it in hospitals to detect illnesses which mimic or worsen flu and to pick up any flu cases that may be resistant to treatment".

Researchers at the Centre for Virus Research at WMI are concentrating on the finer detail, using a process they previously developed for the SARS outbreak to quickly identify mutations in the flu virus.

"Viruses can mutate or change quickly. A major mutation in the genetic make-up of the virus may make it more infectious or harder to treat" says Professor Cunningham.

"The new technologies we have developed at the Centre will enable us to identify any changes quickly, so as to prevent spread of a virus that is potentially more infectious or resistant to available antivirals."

These projects have already begun and are anticipated to be successfully completed in the near future.


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Contact: Gayle McNaught
61-29-845-9009
Research Australia
20-Feb-2006


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