Singapore develops flu detection chip


Singapore is developing an electronic chip that can pinpoint almost instantly whether a patient has flu, dengue fever, SARS or other respiratory illnesses, a newspaper has reported.

The government-run Genome Institute of Singapore said it hoped to launch the respiratory pathogens detection chip, about the size of a 50-cent coin, as early as January, the Sunday Timesreported.

Sputum or nasal fluid from an infected person is dropped on to the chip and its detection probes then diagnose the pathogen. The institute said it was working with a major U.S. medical devices company to test the chip soon, but declined to name the party.

"Patients who have flu, dengue fever or SARS all exhibit similar symptoms in the early stages of infection. The chip will be able to test for all this at once, identify if it's one or the other, and doctors will have a clear picture from the start," Ren Ee Chee, the institute's deputy director, told the paper.

The deadly flu-like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus, which surfaced in southern China earlier this year, has killed more than 800 people worldwide, including 33 in Singapore.

Medical experts have repeatedly warned that the virus could re-emerge in the northern hemisphere winter months and that existing tests were not entirely reliable.