Duke University’s Institute for Genome Science & Policy is developing a device that can detect viral infections long before the symptoms appear in the body. The project started as a research initiative commissioned by the Pentagon for boosting war performances but the scientists working on it believed that a gadget with this technology can have applications beyond military circles.
Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg, director of Duke’s Institute for Genome Science & Policy, is collaborating with a team of colleagues to create a gadget that can detect viral infection hours before the sniffles. His team has made rapid strides in identifying 30 genetic markers, found through blood samples, that are activated by a virus.
“Traditionally, we’ve diagnosed these conditions by testing for the actual pathogen, but that’s a slow process and it’s not effective until you’re already symptomatic,” Ginsburg told Danger Room. “To look at the actual host response instead is a really novel approach.” “This would eliminate the ‘default’ of giving antibiotics, which is a significant public health concern,” Ginsburg said. “So what we’d have, essentially, is a tool to drastically improve clinical judgment in a day-to-day setting, which wasn’t a Darpa goal, but a corollary benefit because we had a chance to find these specific signatures.”
Ginsburg says that in the tests, the device showed excellent accuracy 24 hours before a patient showed symptoms of an infection.