FLU-ID   Virus detection with magnetic nanoparticles
A project funded by the Swedish Strategic Research Foundation SSF
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In recent years influenza has received considerable attention due to  the potential of causing a pandemic. An influenza pandemic is a severe   public health emergency in terms of complexity, distribution and  ability to devastate Sweden, Europe and the world.   The H1N1 swine flu was the latest example of such a pandemic. The World Health  Organization (WHO) and other similar international and national organizations keep  currently close attention on the spread of a new and highly pathogenic influenza variant  (H5N7) in China. However, the more typical seasonal influenza remains the most  frequent annual cause of acute respiratory illnesses requiring medical intervention. It  has been estimated by the WHO that during each annual influenza epidemics 5-15% of  the population is affected, with an associated 3-5 million severe cases and 250, 000-  500, 000 deaths worldwide. Children have the highest influenza attack rates, with  annual incidence rates of up to 30%. In the USA, influenza accounts for US$1-3 billion  in direct medical costs each year; indirect costs, including lost earnings due to illness  and lost future earnings due to death, are much higher, in the range US$10-15 billion  per year. The figures for Europe are of similar magnitude.  In order to limit health related consequences, as well as the economic burden, rapid,  sensitive and specific diagnostic assays are critical to enabling adequate patient care,  preventing patient-to-patient spread of infection and minimizing unnecessary antibiotic  use. A reliable assay with a short turn-around-time (TAT) for detecting influenza-  infections in respiratory samples is thus highly desirable. Established testing procedures  have a time demand ranging from 3-10 days (viral cell cultures) to <30 min  (immunochromatographic lateral flow and membrane-based immunoassays). However,  all currently recommended tests with sufficiently high sensitivity are in practice  performed in dedicated bioanalytical laboratories. Assay instrumentation is typically  large and rather expensive, and is therefore not available at the point of care or in  smaller emergency wards, so the actual time required is usually on the order of hours.   With the aim to develop a solution that shortens the total time for the diagnostic test  to < 60 minutes, while achieving a target sensitivity of 600 molecules per milliliter of  sample, we have formed a consortium consisting with expertise in test and assay  development (Uppsala and Stockholm University), device and detection development  (Chalmers and Acreo Swedish ICT AB), and sample generation and preparation  (Karolinska Institute).