Imagine knowing you’ll be too sick to go to work, before the faintest hint of a runny nose or a sore throat. Now imagine that preemptive diagnosis being transmitted to a national, web-based influenza map — simply by picking up the phone.
That’s the impressive potential of an ongoing Pentagon-funded research project, spearheaded by geneticists at Duke University. Since 2006, they’ve been hunting for a genetic signature that can accurately assess, well before symptoms appear, whether someone’s been infected with a virus. Eight months into a $19.5 million grant from Darpa, the Pentagon’s out-there research agency, the expert behind the program is anticipating a tool with implications far 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. Between 2006 and 2009, his team made rapid strides in identifying 30 genetic markers, found through blood samples, that are activated by a virus.
They’ve since moved to human trials, testing 80 people in four studies. Healthy participants were exposed to three different viral strains. Their blood, saliva and urine were then tested for “viral specific signatures,” that would characterize illness.
Full story: Pentagon Virus Detector Knows You’re Sick Before You Do