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IK4 and BIOEF design a revolutionary influenza control system

08/06/2009 |IKERLAN-IK4, GAIKER-IK4 and BIOEF jointly work on a EU project aiming to design a portable device to revolutionise the way of controlling epidemic influenza on a worldwide scale, thanks to the significant reduction of the time required to detect the virus from the current 24 hour period to a timeframe ranging from 30 to 60 minutes and the increase of control points. This research, which is participated by other European partners, is performed within the 7FP, and it is funded with a budget nearing four million euros.

It will reduce the lapse of time required to diagnose this illness from 24 hours to 30/60 minutes both of the seasonal human influenza virus as the avian influenza.

The Portfastflu project is working on the development of a small card that includes advanced microtechnology, seeking to create portable systems to significantly reduce the time for diagnosis and facilitate rapid intervention and subsequent monitoring. Using this device will not require highly trained personnel and it will be marketed at a low cost.  It will also be able to identify strains of epidemics of seasonal influenza and avian influenza subtypes, the latter is of particular importance because of its high incidence rate in developing countries.

The results of these analysis, if positive, will be transmitted within seconds via GPS to one of the 112 influenza surveillance labs of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This will eliminate the time spent transporting and analysing the clinical sample. Another one of this system's advantages is that it would not be necessary to go to a health centre; thanks to its portable nature the analysis and diagnosis may be performed anywhere, like airports, farms, schools or homes for senior citizens.

The benefits of implementing this development in the human healthcare field are numerous, since early diagnosis facilitates medical decisions for a correct treatment and subsequent monitoring. It will also be extremely useful in the production of vaccines, by providing quicker and more precise information on the type of influenza virus thus aiding the progress of the production to develop more effective vaccines.

In the case of avian influenza these advantages increase with its many applications. Mainly, this system will significantly improve fast detection of the disease in underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia, with less resources to be allocated for this, since the portable card is user friendly and it will have a reduced cost.

Additionally, it can be used in the development of quick tests on sick people that arrive at ports or airports from regions where the avian influenza is present, thus reducing the introduction and spreading of the virus.

We emphasise on the great interest in developing a low-cost portable card for quick diagnosis of the human and avian influenza, particularly in sight of the economic consequences of this disease in the healthcare sector. Furthermore, this type of diagnosis tools will be very useful in the veterinary field. Early detection of avian influenza epidemics is necessary to contain the disease thus avoiding huge economic losses.

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