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Poultry farmers and pet bird keepers urged to prepare for winter avian flu

Iceni Diagnostics’ 15-minute avian flu test would provide frontline alert of infection

22 October 2020, at 9:00am

Prompt testing of sick wild birds for avian flu is one of the recommendations by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Disease Control. This follows warnings that a highly pathogenic avian influenza is causing outbreaks in Russia and Kazakhstan and as winter approaches the risk of migratory wild birds infecting domestic poultry will rise.

Rapid testing, high standards of hygiene and preventing wild birds accessing feed and water are measures that could keep the poultry industry disease free.

“Rapid identification of the presence of avian influenza enables effective disease management. Critically, the ability to identify ANY pathogenic variant of influenza will ensure that all potential infections will be picked up and that is a key profile of the Iceni Diagnostics tests,” comments Dr Berwyn Clarke, of Iceni Diagnostics.

The company has developed a series of diagnostics for influenza, which has very high specificity so can differentiate between the different types of the virus and provide a yes/no response in the field within 15 minutes.

There are many strains of avian flu and although the risk of transmission of avian influenza viruses to the general public in Europe remains very low, vigilance is required; an outbreak would be devastating to the poultry industry and creates a small risk to those working closely with birds.

Migratory birds are known to be the main vector for the disease, so a simple, inexpensive device that can be used in the field, with minimal training, would enable detection at an early stage.

These features underlie the value of the company’s new, rapid SARS-COV-2/human Influenza diagnostic that has just gone into manufacture. The test, which is housed in a lateral flow device similar to a home pregnancy test, uses the company’s unique proprietary HPGR (Host-Pathogen Glycan Recognition) technology to detect the presence of live virus. It is designed to identify those with a COVID-19 infection even when asymptomatic

Clarke explains: “The HPGR technology can be used to identify different viruses that impact human and animal health. It detects intact viruses unlike most existing viral tests that identify genetic material. This crucial difference means that a positive result is a key indicator of current infection and likely infectivity.

“The test is designed to be mass produced and disposable and so provides a useful front-line tool for preventing disease spread.”

Iceni Diagnostics is looking for partners and investment to further develop its portfolio of diagnostics.

Note: Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately. In Great Britain, if you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7). In Northern Ireland contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840.