Abbott Laboratories ( ABT) continues to expand its suite of tests for Hepatitis A in the U.S. market, announcing the latest version of assays for the virus at the American Association of Clinical Chemistry's annual meeting today.

The company announced Tuesday that it will be introducing the AxSYM HAVAB-M assay in the U.S., the first fully automated test that can diagnose an acute or recent Hepatitis A infection. The tests use Abbott's AxSYM testing technology to pick up Hepatitis A antibodies in as little as 20 minutes, and when combined with Abbott's other testing products, can produce between 80 and 120 different tests an hour.

"By developing and introducing many of the world's first Hepatitis assays, Abbott has set the standard for viral Hepatitis testing," said Joseph M. Nemmers, senior vice president of diagnostic operations, adding later, "For the Hepatitis A virus, our AxSYM HAVAB-M assay now provides laboratories with an efficient and effective diagnostic test for this disease."

In reaction, shares of Abbott fell 15 cents, or 0.4%, to $38.36. The news is the latest in a string of Hepatitis A testing announcements from Abbott.

In February, the company received FDA approval to sell 11 diagnostic arrays covering Hepatitis and two other conditions in the U.S. Abbott plans to start launching the arrays, which are already sold overseas, over the summer and will be adding more throughout 2005. The company said the arrays would bring in $10 million in revenue during 2004, a drop in the bucket considering the company is expected to have $19.4 billion in revenue in 2004.

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