PrimerDesign produces "first DNA test kit" for H1N1 swine flu detection

MAY 14, 2009--PrimerDesign Ltd. (Southampton, England), a supplier of quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) assays and reagents, says it has "won the race to produce the first DNA test kit for the Mexican swine flu." According to project coordinator Rob Powell, "We were able to show conclusively that the test works."

The test kit uses real-time PCR to amplify a sequence of DNA in the virus genome that is unique to the H1N1 swine flu virus, explains Jim Wicks, Project Manager at PrimerDesign. "It is an open platform product," Wicks told BioOptics World, noting that it works on all real-time PCR machines including those by Applied Biosystems, Roche, Bio-Rad, and Qiagen. "If the virus is present in the clinical sample then amplification is successful and a fluorescent signal is generated. If the clinical sample does not contain the virus, then no amplification of the DNA occurs and no fluorescent signal is generated," he says.

A major advantage of the test is speed: It produces results in only two hours whereas current diagnostic tests take two days. That speed could be critical for containing outbreaks. "Monitoring the spread of the virus is now the key weapon against a possible pandemic. These tests will contribute to the global effort to halt the disease," said Wicks.

The PrimerDesign swine flu real-time PCR kit is sold primarily for research use but could be used to diagnose the disease in laboratories globally. PrimerDesign, which was founded by University of Southampton scientists, sent its first shipment of tests directly to Mexico and other territories to help authorities monitor the increasing number of suspected cases. Wicks told BioOptics World that the company has sent over 40 kits thus far (6000 tests) around the globe--and that each kit is good for 150 tests. "They are in use by centers for disease control, government laboratories, ministries of health, and private healthcare clinics," he noted.

To serve the market on an ongoing basis, he said, "We have production schedule in place and capacity to produce up to 1 million tests per month."

For more information on PrimerDesign Ltd, see the company's website.

Posted by Barbara G. Goode, barbarag@pennwell.com, for BioOptics World.

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