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Hope for rapid equine influenza test
“Preventing a new influenza pandemic requires both vaccination and antiviral drugs to be administered within 48 hours of the infection."
Scientists say dipstick test could offer results in seconds 

A simple dipstick test could offer a rapid, non-invasive method of screening for equine influenza.

Iceni Diagnostics has a patent for its approach to detecting and distinguishing between human and avian flu. The company believes that with a slight modification, the test could be used for routine screening in horses before they travel to race meets and other gatherings.

Professor Robert Field, co-founder at Iceni, said 90 per cent of infections use carbohydrate recognition to bind with targets in humans and animals. This mechanism is specific to each strain of flu, so it can be used as a sensor for the disease.

“Our sensor uses sugars tagged with inexpensive gold nanoparticles,” he explained. “If the virus is present it will stick to the particles, pulling them closer together. This creates a photophysics reaction and the sample changes colour.

“We have found that there are differences between the carbohydrate detectors in the different types of flu. It is therefore possible to use a colour change to identify presence and absence of the virus and to distinguish between them.”

Using sugars instead of more commonly used protein-based diagnostics avoids the need for cold storage, meaning the test can be used worldwide with minimal training, and gives results in seconds.

According to Professor David Russell, chief scientist at Iceni, the new assay based on gold nanoparticles is much faster than current tests.

“Preventing a new influenza pandemic requires both vaccination and antiviral drugs to be administered within 48 hours of the infection in order to contain the disease,” he said.

“Current methods of detection require isolation and culturing of the virus, which may take several hours or even days to get the results. Using our test it would be possible to quickly identify infected animals at the stables and quarantine them, preventing the spread of disease.”

Iceni is now looking for investment to modify its sensor to produce a dip test for equine flu.

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Wales to ban third party puppy and kitten sales

News Story 1
 The Welsh Government has said it will ban third party sales of puppies and kittens, after a consultation showed overwhelming public support.

A consultation in February received nearly 500 responses, most of whom called for greater action to improve the welfare of cats and dogs at all breeding premises.

Concerns were also raised about online sales, impulse buying, breeder accountability and illegal puppy imports.

A consultation will now be held on plans to implement a ban. Environment minister Lesley Griffiths said she will also revisit the current breeding regulations to improve welfare conditions.  

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WHO declares Congo Ebola outbreak an international health emergency

The World Health Organisation has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

The move comes after a meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in the DRC. The committee cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma - a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The committee also reinforced the need to protect the livelihoods of the people most affected by the outbreak by keeping transport routes and borders open.