Human Bird Flu Detection on a Chip

French chipmaker STMicro said on Wednesday it will introduce a disposable chip that would be able to detect the avian flu in humans. The test would be available for healthcare providers by the fall, just in time for the next flu season, the company said.

While the virus has not yet made the necessary mutations in order to transmit easily among humans, scientists say the avian flu carries the highest risk of a worldwide pandemic of any flu strain in decades.

So far, the virus has killed 79 people since its discovery in 2003. However, this mutation requires direct contact with infected birds.

Singapore-based medical diagnostics company Veredus Laboratories is also working with STMicro on the project, and is developing the application that would detect the virus. The breakthrough could mean it would take only one test rather than several to confirm a case within humans.

A sample of blood is placed on the chip, whichis then run through a machine where it is read for the results. No price has been set on the test, although STMicro said it would first deliver it to airports and immigration checkpoints, where the company stands to make the most money.

"The single-test application will be a substantial breakthrough in enabling rapid identification of the infectious agent to limit the spread of the disease and speed patients' treatment," STMicro said in a statement.

Both STMicro and Verdus said pricing would be competitive as long as those interested would support the project through large orders. STMicro says it is also looking into employing the technology for other diseases, such as pneumonia.

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