Queensland lab first in Australia to test for new Bird Flu

PATHOLOGY Queensland laboratory technicians are the first in Australia to develop a test for the new bird flu; H7N9.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the existing influenza test had been modified to include specific detection of the H7N9 virus.

"We believe there is no similar screening test incorporating the H7N9 strain in Australia - this is an Australian first," Mr Springborg said.

"The fact this test has been developed right here in Queensland is a testament to the quality work of our microbiologists and lab technicians, and I applaud their initiative in helping to protect our communities."

The development of the test was done in conjunction with Pathology Queensland's Microbiology Department and the Queensland Paediatric Infectious Disease Laboratory; both located at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH).

Professor Graeme Nimmo, Director of Microbiology Pathology Queensland, said the test was essential in helping Australia keep the virus at bay.

"The test has been developed as an essential part of the preparedness for a potential bird flu pandemic," Prof Nimmo said.

"It allows cases to be detected very rapidly, enabling treatment to commence in as short a possible time, limiting the spread of the disease and the impact on the community."

The modified influenza test involves a nasopharyngeal swab or nasopharyngeal aspirates collected from patients suspected of having influenza.

The swabs are sent to Pathology Queensland Central Laboratory at the RBWH campus where H7N9 strain can be immediately recognised at a genetic level.

A positive test is then confirmed with further analysis.

The virus has so far only been detected in Eastern China and Taiwan, and has not mutated to spread from person-to-person.


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