Influenza virus is the main cause of human respiratory infections, with high risk to trigger an influenza pandemic among vulnerable populations. The world is currently facing a new epidemic after the emergence, in April 2009 in Mexico, of a human-adapted swine H1N1 influenza A virus (A/H1N1/2009) different from the pre-existing, seasonal H1N1 influenza virus. This virus has rapidly spread out and has been first identified in Hong Kong on May 01, 2009 and in mainland China on May 11, 2009. In the present situation, two H1N1 viruses are concomitantly circulating worldwide, making a rapid and specific diagnosis for each of them absolutely necessary.
The Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Chinese Academy of Sciences, with the contribution of the University of Hong Kong, has developed a molecular test which can identify two genes of the novel A/H1N1/2009 influenza virus and, at the same time, discriminate this virus from the seasonal H1N1 or H3N2 viruses co-circulating worldwide. The new test is based on a multiplex real time RT-PCR and can be used on a mobile instrument for rapid investigation in the field. It can provide results only 3 hours after specimen sampling.
The protocol of the test has already been provided to the public health authorities in Shanghai and to laboratories of the network of Pasteur institutes working in Asia-Pacific region on RESPARI (research-driven response to acute respiratory infections) project.