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National Lab, University to Certify Flu Screening Machine

H1N1 virus (CDC)

H1N1 virus (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles will test and certify a key component of the High-Throughput Laboratory Network (HTLN) to be built by HighRes Biosolutions of Boston, Massachusetts. The company will design the automated extraction and screening system for a prototype compact laboratory to process thousands of specimens of influenza viruses and other infectious agents.

The extraction and screening system being built by HighRes Biosolutions will allow public health officials to cross reference genetic material from samples collected from infected persons or other sources with reference samples of genetic material from strains of infectious diseases.

The results will help public health officials to determine whether an outbreak of an infectious disease comes from a pandemic strain or one less virulent. The system could also help determine if a strain of pathogen is ready to mutate into a form that can become more transmissible or aggressively virulent.

Scientists and engineers from Los Alamos and UCLA have been developing an HTLN for global influenza surveillance. The earlier prototype was tested at Los Alamos in June 2009. Since then, the research team has designed higher-speed and higher-volume capabilities for greater surveillance, detection, and analysis of pathogens.

Each self-contained HTLN unit, according to the Los Alamos lab,  occupies a small space. Deploying multiple modular laboratories around the world would enable the development of a global network of these units. This network could provide consistency and resources to areas unlikely to have sophisticated pathogen-surveillance technology.

Read more: Magnets Improve Understanding of Influenza Drugs

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