WHO picks institute to evaluate first SARS diagnostic kit


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 16 Apr 2003

BY LEONG SHEN-LI       

PETALING JAYA: The World Health Organisation has picked the Institute of Medical Research to evaluate the effectiveness of the first diagnostic kit for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said WHO had asked several countries to carry out evaluation on the new product which was produced by a German biotechnological company. 

Speaking to reporters after briefing senators on the SARS situation in Parliament House yesterday, Chua said the kit would allow doctors to confirm quickly whether a patient had SARS. 

Currently, tests to verify the presence of the coronavirus which was believed to be the cause of the illness, could take up to two weeks. 

When contacted, the local representative of the Hamburg-based company Artus said Malaysia was one the countries where it would be distributing free samples of the kit which it claimed was the first and only commercially available diagnostic kit for the coronavirus. 

Artus Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Dr Finn Zedler said regular customers such as universities and research institutes had expressed interest in getting these sample kits. 

“As there is some experience and equipment needed for the kit to be used, we would not be giving these samples out to all our customers.”  

He said yesterday the IMR and Universiti Malaya Medical Centre were two of its main customers in Malaysia.  

The new kit allows result-interpretation when the test is being carried out, while full results could be obtained within two hours. 

Explaining how the kit worked, Dr Zedler said polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was the basic principle used. PCR is a method of generating copies of DNA or RNA so that enough of such material could be used for analysis. 

“Fluorescent probes are released by the kit into a sample, usually obtained from the sputum of a patient because SARS is a respiratory disease. These probes will bind with the RNA of the coronavirus,” he said. 

He said the probes would thus signal the presence of the virus as well as provide the quantity of the virus.  

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