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New system for fast virus detection: can flu waves be nipped in the bud?

New system for fast virus detection: can flu waves be nipped in the bud?


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Device for fully automatic virus detection developed

A German research team successfully tested a new diagnostic device with which viruses can be identified quickly and directly on site. In initial tests with influenza viruses, the device was even able to recognize the subtype of the viruses. According to the researchers, the device can be adapted to new pathogens as needed. This could bring a decisive advantage in the fight against epidemics or pandemics such as a flu wave, but also in diseases such as bird flu and SARS.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Mainz are currently developing a system for the rapid diagnosis of influenza subtypes, which can also be reprogrammed to other pathogens. The so-called Panplex system has now been successfully tested for the first time. The device analyzes samples for existing viruses fully automatically.

Identification of viruses is currently too lengthy

Influenza is once again rampant in Germany. Many people throw an ordinary cold into a pot with the "real" flu. However, the difference can be vital. In the 2017/2018 influenza season, there were over 300,000 illnesses and almost 1,000 deaths in Germany. In order to clearly identify influenza, samples of those affected must first be sent to the laboratory and examined there. It can take several days for the doctor or the person concerned to receive the important information.

Faster response to virus epidemics

“The aim is to be able to make precise statements about the type of flu quickly so that we can react more quickly and treat them more specifically,” reports Dr. Tobias Schunck, Panplex's project manager, in a press release on the successful test of the device. The Fraunhofer researchers were able to show that the detection of various influenza subtypes works reliably.

Faster and more accurate

In contrast to current time-consuming methods, the device is supposed to handle the sample preparation completely automatically. This not only makes the process faster, but also more precise, since potential sources of error are eliminated. The heart of the diagnostic system is a microfluidic chip that independently carries out the work processes that were previously carried out manually in the laboratory.

The device is already in use at the University Hospital Aachen

The Panplex system is now to be put through its paces in clinical tests at the University Hospital Aachen during the current flu season. The researchers see many possible areas of application for the device because the system is designed as a platform technology and can be adapted to other pathogens. It could therefore soon be used for the detection of all types of pathogens that have pandemic potential. (vb)

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