Rapid point-of-care testing for influenza
Influenza (flu) outbreaks impose a big burden on healthcare systems in both developed and developing countries. Recently, pandemics due to avian flu and H1N1 virus have wreaked havoc, especially for the more vulnerable. Current diagnostics are rooted in culture techniques developed over the past two centuries. The 'Portable automated test for fast detection and surveillance of influenza' (PORTFASTFLU) project therefore aimed to develop a state-of-the-art diagnostic device for flu and all relevant strains of the virus. By varying the microarray, the device can also be used to diagnose other microbial infections. PORTFASTFLU scientists have developed a novel system called the GeneSpress® platform. The system analyses in real time clinical samples taken from nose and throat swabs. Moreover, the final detection kit is able to distinguish the original flu subtypes from the most recent one. The device incorporates three units. A lab-on-a-chip (LOC) that converts the RNA in the sample into DNA, multiplies the DNA and compares the sample with the DNA microarray. The second module contains the hydraulic and pneumatic mechanics as well as the electronics. A measurement and analysis system gives the signal and the readout in the third unit. The end result is a fluorescent read-out next to the automated signal and data analysis display. What makes this LOC device stand out from others developed to carry out genetic or cell analyses is its unique portability. To achieve this, the PORTFASTFLU team developed a diagnostics system that acts as a docking station for the LOC consumable cartridge. Other less portable units depend on being surrounded by a large range of equipment and devices to operate. Due to market demand, especially in hospitals, GeneSpress® platform will be adapted for multiplex diagnostics of a panel of respiratory infectious diseases, of which influenza is just one. Infections targeted will be ventilator-acquired pneumonia (VAP) and multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria. Development of point-of-care equipment for diagnostics is particularly relevant when hospital resources may be limited or during out of hours for lab facilities. Use of the GeneSpress® means a shorter stay in hospital and more effective treatment of VAP, for example, to ultimately save lives.