CDC researchers developed a portable flu testing kit
Feb. 8, 2020
Global Korean Post
Experts in CDC’s Influenza Division have developed a portable flu laboratory that can sequence the influenza genome and analyze flu A viruses in real-time and on site during an outbreak.
The kit, called Mia (Mobile Influenza Analysis), brings influenza sequencing technology out of the laboratory and into the field—cutting the time needed to genetically analyze flu viruses in half and producing real-time, actionable data that can be used in a public health response.
A recently published articleexternal icon in mSphere details the successful use of Mia to detect and quickly analyze flu A viruses that emerged during an outbreak of flu among pigs in 2018. Using their portable laboratory equipment, the team was able to extract, sequence, and analyze influenza samples from pigs in just 14.5 hours—an impressive improvement over the week required when samples must be sent to a laboratory for examination.
Just like human flu viruses, flu viruses that normally circulate among pigs are constantly changing and—although it is very rare—these genetic changes can result in the emergence of entirely new human viruses triggering a pandemic.
When humans are infected with flu viruses that typically infect pigs, these are called “variant virus” infections. Variant viruses are concerning to public health officials for several reasons:
During any potential outbreak time is of the essence. For flu, the sooner researchers can understand the genetic composition of the emergent viruses, the sooner prevention and control measures can begin, including the development of a vaccine. Barnes’ team estimates that had the viruses they detected caused a flu pandemic, their proactive surveillance and the time saved by using Mia would have provided an 8-week advantage for vaccine manufacturing.
The success of Mia’s use in the field at the site of a flu outbreak paves the way for future progress toward the decentralization of flu surveillance. Real-time, on-site analysis of flu viruses saves time and allows faster public health countermeasures in response to detection of flu viruseses of potential pandemic concern.