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Launch of rapid-test for bird flu epidemic

Launch of rapid-test for bird flu epidemic

Australia 8 November 2005: Biopharmaceutical company Rockeby biomed today announced it had acquired the rights to a rapid test to diagnose Avian H5N1 Bird flu.

Australian-listed company Rockeby is launching two rapid tests. One is a rapid screening method that measures bird flu proteins in samples taken from human nose or throat. The other is a veterinary diagnostic for on site testing of avian flu in bird faeces, as well as purified bird blood and serum specimen. Rockeby's veterinary test is sensitive, rapid and simple to use. The kit is stable for storage between about 2 and 30 degrees and has a long shelf life.

Both tests will return a result within 10 minutes of collection of the sample and both rely on immunological detection of the viral protein.

Avian flu or H5N1 of influenza A virus, has been shown recently to infect humans and trigger an aggressive clinical response, causing severe disease that often proves fatal, even in previously healthy adults and children.

Influenza experts worldwide are concerned that H5N1 has met two of the three criteria for a global outbreak of bird flu in humans, or so-called pandemic, with many believing that it is only a matter of time before such an outbreak occurs.

The two criteria are that H5N1 is a new form of virus and it causes serious disease in humans. At this stage, it is not highly infectious and readily transmitted between humans, but mutation may change that situation.

To date, the 100 or so people known to have been infected with bird flu have had direct contact with birds and their faeces.

"There is an urgent need for a quick, reliable test for avian flu. Compared to the H5N1 subtype isolated in 1997 and 2004, the 2005 variant is already more lethal to animals in laboratory testing and survives for longer in the environment," said Dr Sze Wee Tan of Rockeby.

"Domestic ducks have become 'silent' reservoirs of the virus. They shed a high number of viral particles in their faeces, but show no symptoms of the disease."

"We believe that Rockeby's product has substantial advantages over a new test announced by European company AJ Roboscreen GmbH, in mid-October. In particular, their test relies on laboratory testing by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect viral particles, a method that requires specialised equipment and transport of samples from site of collection to the laboratory."
In its document Responding to the avian influenza pandemic threat, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other parties have identified the need for new methods for detecting the virus in environmental samples as one component of a multi-faceted approach to controlling a bird flu pandemic.

The WHO also noted the shortcomings of routine veterinary surveillance, describing it as "weak in most risk-prone countries", which highlights the need for a suitable new test such as Rockeby’s Avian H5N1 Virus Antigen Test.

The Avian Virus Antigen Test was evaluated at Faculty of Veterinary Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. It was found to be able to detect Avian Influenza Virus Ag, subtype H5N1 efficiently. These virus isolations were obtained from infected chicken and duck during avian flu epidemic in Thailand in 2004. The test kit required AIV Ag at least 107ELD50/ml to show positive result, whereas chick embryo technique, haemagglutination test and multiplex RT-PCR required virus at least 100, 107, and 104 ELD50/ml, respectively.

ENDS

About Rockeby biomed:
Rockeby biomed Limited is an ASX-listed (ASX: RBY) biotechnology company engaged primarily in the research, development and marketing of products for the diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections in humans. The company's main market is that of in-vitro diagnostic testing which covers serology tests in hospitals as well as point-of-care products for use by consumers or health professionals operating outside hospitals.

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