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Scientists unveil fast test for fatal diseases

Viruses such as the deadly West Nile virus can be detected more quickly Keystone Archive

Swiss scientists say they have developed a technique for identifying fatal diseases quickly at an early stage of development.

This content was published on January 28, 2004 - 18:44

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne said the test, which can detect bacteria or viruses within minutes, could also accelerate drug development.

“The new method enables us to quickly diagnose a virus or bacterium by comparing it with existing data,” Dimitrios Stamou, who took part in the research, told swissinfo.

“Being able to diagnose within minutes a fatal illness that could kill you within a few hours is essential for future science,” he added.

The test can identify deadly organisms from a single drop of blood, but it is only effective against known viruses or bacteria, according to Stamou.

“The technique cannot be used to discover a new virus, like the pneumonia-like SARS virus, for example,” he said.

Slow process

But announcing the breakthrough on Wednesday, the institute warned that it could take another three to five years for the new test to hit the market.

“It depends on the number of people who work on the project. If Novartis took over the project and used hundreds of people to work on it, it would happen very quickly,” said Stamou.

The Institute of Virology and Immunoprophylaxis (IVI), which deals with the diagnosis, surveillance and control of highly infectious diseases of animals, agrees with this assessment.

“This new technique is not something that can be used tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. New tests have to be validated first, and such a process can take quite some time,” Christian Griot, director of the IVI, told swissinfo.

According to the institute, a virus or bacterium is diagnosed by quickly analysing the interaction between the drop of blood and the molecules that detect the presence of bacteria and viruses.

swissinfo

In brief

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have discovered a new testing technique for viruses and bacteria.

With the new speed test a virus or bacterium can be analysed within minutes.

They say the new test could save the lives of people infected with a fatal disease that would kill them within a short period of time.

However, the implementation of the new technique could take up to five years.

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