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Southampton scientists race to deliver DNA swine flu test

01 May 2009 Southampton, University of

A team of genetics experts in Southampton is working against the clock to produce the world's first DNA test for the Mexican strain of swine flu.

University of Southampton spin-out company PrimerDesign specialises in producing high-tech DNA detection kits. The technology detects results faster and more accurately than traditional diagnosis techniques. The company was founded by University of Southampton scientists and is part of the University's SETsquared Business Incubation programme.

Staff at the PrimerDesign laboratories realised they were ideally positioned to create the first DNA swine flu test when the US Centre for Disease Control published the genetic data for the killer virus this week.

Coordinator of the swine flu DNA project, Dr Rob Powell said, "With the release of the unique genetic code for this dangerous virus strain we're able to develop the ultimate diagnosis tool within the next few days.

"At PrimerDesign we're able to produce synthetic DNA that matches the virus exactly, without ever having to come into contact with the flu itself. The test can identify the presence of swine flu within two hours."

The high-tech production methods of the kits mean that the Southampton team could very quickly produce enough test kits for hospitals across Europe if needed. The kits will be fully developed and ready to go within two weeks.

PrimerDesign Ltd already produces genetic detection kits for numerous other viruses and conditions; it is possible that this could be the first DNA diagnosis for the Mexican swine flu anywhere in the world.

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