A new biochip developed in Singapore can halve the time and cost of diagnosing the deadly, mosquito-born Dengue fever, according to the chip's designer.

Clinical tests showed that the chip, roughly the size of a coin, is able to detect the dengue virus using a process called molecular diagnostics, Attogenix Biosystems said in a statement.

The process takes 2-3 days, down from 6-7 days using traditional methods of detection, which rely heavily on a doctor's subjective assessment and experience.

"The chips will cost hospitals half of what conventional testing equipment cost -- which is around S$45,000 ($27,190)," Dr. Ting Dor Ngi, general manager of Attogenix, told Reuters.

The chip could potentially be used to test for other diseases, the firm said, such as bird-flu, SARS, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Singapore, a Southeast Asian island of 4 million people, is often hit hard by dengue fever between July and September.

It reported 9,459 dengue infections in 2004, the highest since records began in the mid-1990s, and at least three died of the illness last year.


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