First Test for West Nile Virus

Fast results, earlier diagnosis

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WEDNESDAY, July 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The first diagnostic test for West Nile virus won U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval Tuesday, allowing doctors to confirm the illness and begin treatment sooner.

The West Nile Virus IgM Capture ELISA is meant for patients who show symptoms of viral encephalitis or meningitis -- the two most deadly manifestations of the mosquito-borne illness. In people with healthy immune systems, the virus often causes nothing more than flu-like symptoms.

Developed by the Australian diagnostics firm PanBio, the $25 test can detect West Nile antibodies within the first few days of the illness' onset. Results can be made available the same day, versus a week or more using current methods.

The test's approval was timely -- the United States reported its first West Nile case of the year earlier this week. The nation's peak mosquito season runs from July to October.

For more information about the new test, check this FDA Talk Paper. To learn more about the West Nile virus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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