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HSADL developed flu test ahead of US

MORE THAN seven months after the City-based High-Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) developed the ultra-sensitive Real Time RT-PCR diagnostic tests for bird flu, the Atlanta (US)-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has claimed to have ?developed? the same diagnostic test.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 13:01 IST

MORE THAN seven months after the City-based High-Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) developed the ultra-sensitive Real Time RT-PCR diagnostic tests for bird flu, the Atlanta (US)-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has claimed to have ‘developed’ the same diagnostic test.

Ironically, the failure of a national-level science journal to publish a scientific paper based on the development of the most-advanced diagnostic test by the HSADL has allowed the US to claim its development. However, the Hindustan Times, on August 7, 2005, had published a detailed report mentioning the breakthrough of the HSADL regarding Real-Time RT-PCR.

A US government website (www.pubmed.gov — a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health in the US) on February 10 announced that a ‘new laboratory assay for the diagnostic testing of avian influenza’ has been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration on February 3.

The website report mentions that the Real-Time Reverse Transcription- Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) diagnostic probe set developed by the CDC has been cleared by the FDA.

The HSADL, Bhopal, had developed this test as early as July 2005 and in October 2005 a scientific paper was forwarded to a reputed science journal of the country for publication. However, the journal failed to publish the paper and returned it without remarks, joint director in-charge of the HSADL Dr H K Pradhan told the Hindustan Times.

He said that had the paper been published, the credit of the development of the diagnostic test would have officially gone to the HSADL. However, he declined to name the scientific journal.

The HSADL had already been using the Real-Time RT-PCR to check the suspected samples of bird flu in the country, long before the announcement by the US website. Even the first cases of bird flu virus in poultry in country, announced by the HSADL on February 18, were confirmed by using the Real-Time RT-PCR.

The Real-Time RT-PCR detection method uses the latest molecular biological techniques and is 1000 per cent more sensitive and very much faster than the conventional detection tests available at present anywhere in the world.

The tests results using this latest Real-Time RT-PCR technique become available as early as four to five hours and are considerably more accurate than those achieved by the convention bird flu detection tests.

The laboratory had been working for the last five years to develop newer tests using the molecular biological tools to diagnose AIV infection in birds and achieved the breakthrough only recently. Giving the technical details, Dr Pradhan said that it is similar to the very recently developed Real Time RT-PCR technique for detection of human influenza.

While this human influenza test targets the matrix gene, the avian influenza detection method uses the nucleoprotein gene, which is present in 90 per cent of avian influenza sub-types of the viruses.

Dr Pradhan however said that the latest test is so sensitive and high-tech that the conventional laboratories cannot use it without adequate facilities on biotechnology and molecular biology.

HSADL is the only Bio Safety Level 4 laboratory in India authorised to carry out such high-level research work. Ironically, the laboratory might not the credit for the work because of the refusal of the science journal to publish it.

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 13:01 IST