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Lab to Quickly Track Infectious Diseases

September 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

Scientists at UCLA and the Los Alamos National Laboratory will be developing a high-volume lab that will use robots to quickly test samples for infectious diseases.

Test results would be cut from a month to a couple of days or a week at most, the scientists said.

The $22-million project is called the High Speed, High Volume Laboratory Network for Infectious Diseases.

The robots -- working around the clock without air in a sterile environment -- will handle thousands of samples of liquids that are too small for human hands.

The lab will conduct surveillance of animal populations, specifically looking for bird flu, scientists said. It is slated to be completed within a year at Los Alamos and will be moved to California and operated by UCLA.

The surveillance will show where the birds are moving, which species are involved and different flyways throughout the world, said Tony Beugelsdijk, a Los Alamos lab chemist.

Machines will figure out DNA sequencing of a pathogen to identify a disease. The work is currently done by hand.

Computers will compile the findings and post them on public databases within a day or two.

It has received support from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will eventually receive the same kind of equipment.

Similar labs will work together in a worldwide network to characterize large numbers of samples and generate information about the patterns they show.

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