ATLANTA – The U.S. government on Tuesday approved a new genetic test for the flu that could allow labs to identify strains in four hours instead of four days.

The Food and Drug Administration reportedly approved the test kit Tuesday, and state health labs are expected to start using it this fall.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials celebrated it as a potential lifesaver, especially if the nation is hit by a pandemic of bird flu or some other mutant influenza.

"We'll now be able to detect influenza in the community faster, which allows us to take steps more quickly to protect and save lives," CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding said in a statement.

Reports said that the CDC is requiring labs to buy Applied Biosystems Inc. equipment to run the test, and the CDC will provide the necessary chemicals. The test was developed by the CDC and Applied Biosystems. About 20 to 30 state labs should be up and running by the end of the year, CDC officials said.

The test reportedly detected the most common flu viruses about 99 percent of the time. It also picked up some viruses that the older test missed.


Source: Associated Press