- Title: SINGAPORE: Singapore chip a powerful new weapon in disease diagnosis
- Date: 24th April 2013
- Summary: VARIOUS OF COMPUTER SCREEN SHOWING TEST RESULTS OF SAMPLE BEING LOADED
- Embargoed: 9th May 2013 13:00
- Location: Singapore
- Country: Singapore
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAL7WQ4MAQ605K09HS3D864DVD
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: When scientists scan blood samples for signs of disease, the technology they typically use is limited to identifying no more than fifty different viruses.
But now, researchers at the Genome Institute of Singapore have developed a chip which can detect up to 70,000 different viruses and bacteria, including the newly discovered H7N9 virus, in one shot. Its creation was spurred by the difficulties experienced by scientists ten years ago, in identifying the deadly virus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Between November 2002 and July, 20013, SARS killed 775 people worldwide.
But now, SARS is one of 70,000 pathogens the chip can pinpoint with just one test, along with H1N1, known as Swine Flu, HIV, Ebola and Smallpox.
The procedure is simple. A patient provides a blood sample, which is placed on the chip and analysed by computer software which looks for DNA signatures of the pathogens.
The results are usually available within 24 hours.
Christopher Wong, co-founder of spin-off company Pathgen, which stands for Pathogen Genomics, says the device will eliminate the need to isolate patients for long periods of time while results are awaited from numerous tests aimed at identifyig different pathogens.
"We know that if a patient has more than one virus or bacteria infection, that patient will require much more aggressive treatment. But there has not really been any tests to support that, because usually if you do a simple single test, as soon as you find one pathogen, you would just treat that pathogen," Wong said.
While Wong developed the programming of the chip, Pathgen co-Founder Martin Hibberd oversees the research behind those infectious diseases.
He says the chip will help all those in the medical field, as more information about potentially new viruses can be shared.
"Because we get genome coverage of these viruses, we can recognise that maybe our database genome isn't a perfect match for the results that we've got. And so therefore, it can point us to novel viruses that might be somewhat similar to the viruses that we do have information on," Hibberd said.
"I think this will be a real step forward to making diagnosis a commonplace experience, that often we will find the infectious agent. And I think that will lead to all sorts of further development, people will understand the prevalence of these infectious agents, start to understand their involvement in disease and disease outcomes, and hopefully spur people into developing treatments and options for patients with these," he added.
Currently, the two scientists behind the chip say patients will get their results 24 hours after their blood is analysed.
The chip is undergoing the approval process by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
Wong says the cost of the chip is currently $450 U.S. dollars, but if there is huge demand for it, he thinks the price will come down, making the technology more affordable.
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