International Murex Technologies Corp. announced Tuesdaythat it has begun shipping a new hepatitis C test into certainEuropean markets, including the United Kingdom, Italy andSpain.

The test has shown more than a 99 percent accuracy rate inclinical trials, said Marcia Young, the company's director ofcorporate communications.

The Wellcozyme anti-HCV (hepatitis C virus) test is beingdistributed by Murex's European subsidiary, Murex DiagnosticsLtd., formerly Wellcome Diagnostics. It is the first enzyme-linked immunoassay (EIA) for the detection of antibodies toHCV, using antigens cloned directly from human serum, Murexsaid. The test will be used by donor blood laboratories andblood banks.

Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood and blood products, and isone of the main causes of post-transfusion hepatitis, thecompany said. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, which candevelop into chronic hepatitis, with the potential of progressingto cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer or death.

The Toronto, Ontario, company (ASE:MXX) estimates theworldwide market for the test to be approximately $273million (Europe $111 million, United States $108 million and$54 million in the rest of the world). The test is in clinical trialsin the U.S., but the company would not predict a possiblemarketing date. Murex also plans eventually to market the testto the rest of the world.

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