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CDC and state labs have central role in US avian flu control plans, but little role yet for firms

This article was originally published in Clinica

Executive Summary

Details emerging about President Bush's $7.1bn pandemic flu preparedness proposal indicate that central laboratories would be largely responsible for diagnosis with only a limited role envisioned for commercial test kits. Only after a pandemic is underway does the plan contemplate the use of more rapid test kits on a local basis, but the tests would not be confirmatory, according to the department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) pandemic influenza plan released November 3. The plan underscores the nation's current diagnostic limitations. On the one hand, the 10 currently-available rapid antigen detection tests are not sufficiently sensitive to reliably distinguish influenza subtypes. On the other, molecular detection of H5N1, the avian flu virus, and other strains with pandemic potential, can be achieved via the US CDC and state reference labs, but the expertise is not widely distributed.

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