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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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Rare chimp birth announced at Edinburgh Zoo

News Story 1
 The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) welcomed the birth of a critically endangered western chimpanzee on Monday 3 February at Edinburgh Zoo's Budongo Trail.

The baby girl will be named in the coming days through a public vote, and staff will carry out a paternity test during its first health check to determine the father.

Mother Heleen's first infant, Velu, was born in 2014, making this new baby only the second chimpanzee born in Scotland for more than 20 years.

Budongo Trail team leader Donald Gow said: "While we celebrate every birth, this one is particularly special because our new arrival is a critically endangered Western chimpanzee, a rare subspecies of chimpanzee."

Image (c) RZSS/Donald Gow. 

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BEVA offering free membership to vet students

The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) is offering free membership to veterinary students. As part of a new initiative with the aim of encouraging more veterinary professionals into equine practice.

According to BEVA, less than one in ten veterinary students choose to work in equine practice. The association hopes that this initiative will provide insight into the field and the benefits of a career in equine medicine.

Benefits of membership include:
▪ access to a network of nearly 3,000 members
▪ special student rates to attend BEVA Congress
▪ online access to BEVA's Equine Veterinary Education (EVE) journal
▪ free access to the association's online learning platform
▪ free access to BEVA's practical veterinary apps
▪ exclusive discounts on a range of things from cinema tickets to grocery shopping.

BEVA will be releasing a series of short videos over the next few months from BEVA Council members, explaining what inspired them to work in equine practice.

Image (c) BEVA.