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Improved flu detection aim of tests under development

October 1, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued two contracts in an effort to help healthcare professionals diagnose influenza sooner and more accurately.

Under one 3.5-year, $12.9 million contract, Alere Inc. will aim to create a simple, low-cost molecular test, the iNAT Influenza A&B test, that could yield results within 15 minutes and show whether a person has an infection caused by a seasonal influenza virus type A or B infection.

The other contract, at two years and $7.9 million with an option to be extended up to four years and $14.7 million, will enable InDevR Inc., to test a biochip, FluChip-8G, that could identify seasonal flu viruses and recognize novel flu viruses within four hours in near-patient settings. Currently, this type of detailed genetic testing is conducted in state, federal or specialty laboratories and can take days to complete.

The tests use different technologies to detect flu viruses and offer different levels of information about the viruses detected. Both tests would use swabs taken from a person’s nasal passage.

“Administering fast and inexpensive tests at the point of care has tangible benefits to personal and public health, particularly in helping doctors prescribe the right therapy immediately,” says Robin Robinson, PhD, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR); her office will oversee the development programs. “Prescribing medication or other therapies in a more targeted way is good stewardship and will be critical to reducing the risk of antimicrobial resistance.”

The contracts were awarded through ASPR.

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