Qiagen, Netherlands, a provider of sample and assay technologies and products, has inked an exclusive contract with the Singapore Ministry of Health to supply sample preparation solutions and molecular tests for the specific detection of influenza H5N1 viruses—better known as avian flu.

The company provides fully automated and manual sample preparation technologies for the extraction of viral nucleic acids, and test kits for specific and sensitive detection of the highly pathogenic avian influenza strain, for Singapore’s Avian Influenza Preparedness program.

The contract runs for 3 years. The volume depends on minimum stockpiling levels and the level of intensity of the country’s surveillance program.

The H5N1 virus occurs mainly in birds and has proven to be highly contagious. The virus does not usually infect people, but avian flu has crossed the species barrier to infect humans. All influenza viruses can change, and it is possible that in time, the avian flu could infect humans and spread easily from one person to another.

Avian flu is spreading throughout the world with increasing velocity, particularly the Asia-type, which features unusually high levels of persistency and pathogenicity. Should the virus encroach on humans, a following pandemic could lead to the deaths of between 2 million and 7.4 million lives, according to World Health Organization estimates.