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USDA to Use Cepheid s Smart Cycler to Detect Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the UK

NEW YORK, March 29 – Cepheid said Thursday that USDA scientists would take the company’s PCR-based DNA detection system to the UK to help test animals for foot-and-mouth disease.

The system, called Smart Cycler, is a battery-operated DNA detection system with 16 independently programmable reaction sites that uses PCR to detect as few as 10 copies of a specific sequence. USDA scientists hope the machines will allow authorities in the UK to rapidly test animals for infection on the spot, rather than sending samples to the laboratory for analysis, said Kurt Petersen, president of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Cepheid.

Scientists at Tetracore, a developer of diagnostic assays for infectious diseases, and USDA developed the reagents for the test, said Petersen. This week, Tetracore and USDA scientists tested the system at the USDA’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the eastern tip of Long Island in New York. On Saturday, the team will leave for the UK.

“The system works [but] it’s in an experimental stage,” said Petersen. “They’re going over to see if it’s suitable for the larger scale testing they’re doing in the UK.”

Most of the testing now is done with large heavy immunoassay or DNA detection equipment located in labs, added Petersen, and the Cepheid system is one of the few portable instruments. “It’s the only practical, portable instrument, and that’s why USDA is interested,” he said.

The test will involve analyzing samples of animal saliva, blood, and tissue for DNA sequences specific to the foot-and-mouth pathogen, said Petersen.

"This is exactly the kind of application the system was designed for," Petersen added.

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