PrimerDesign, a specialist gene detection company, has developed the first test kit to detect drug-resistant strains of the H1N1 swine flu virus.
The new kit will help health organisations and governments track the spread of mutated flu viruses, which have been identified in isolated cases in Europe and Asia and are expected to become more common as the use of Tamiflu as a treatment becomes more widespread.
The kit provides rapid results within two hours as opposed to conventional tests which can take up to three days. A first test confirms if a patient sample is positive or negative for swine flu. A second test will then determine whether the strain is a mutant, Tamiflu-resistant version.
PrimerDesign's Rob Powell said that the worst case scenario emerge with ordinary circulating flu has already been seen.
"Standard human flu strains are now almost completely resistant to Tamiflu, rendering the drug ineffective," Powell said.
PrimerDesign was founded by the University of Southampton in the UK and drew worldwide attention earlier this year after developing the first DNA kit for Mexican swine flu.