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Nat Med. 2007 Oct;13(10):1259-63. Epub 2007 Sep 23.

Catching bird flu in a droplet.

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Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, 31 Biopolis Way, The Nanos, #04-01, Singapore 138669.


It is assumed that a timely mass administration of antiviral drugs, backed by quarantines and social distancing, could contain a nascent influenza epidemic at its source, provided that the first clusters of cases were localized within a short time. However, effective routine surveillance may be impossible in countries lacking basic public health resources. For a global containment strategy to be successful, low-cost, easy-to-use handheld units that permit decentralized testing would be vital. Here we present a microfluidic platform that can detect the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 in a throat swab sample by using magnetic forces to manipulate a free droplet containing superparamagnetic particles. In a sequential process, the viral RNA is isolated, purified, preconcentrated by 50,000% and subjected to ultrafast real-time RT-PCR. Compared to commercially available tests, the bioassay is equally sensitive and is 440% faster and 2,000-5,000% cheaper.

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