A new portable device has been created, which can cut out the lab “middle man.” Diseases, viruses, and cancer may one day (not too far away) be detectable within a few short minutes.
Coming Soon to a Doctor Near You
Still, in its infantile stages, an easy-to-use, portable piece of medical equipment may soon be used in your very own doctor’s office. Researchers at UCLA have created a test that can check for disease biomarkers. Used in conjunction with each other, the device, plus the test should be able to detect potentially serious illnesses within minutes.
Currently, blood, saliva, and urine tests already exist that can send up warning flags for infection or illness. Those tests, however, require several steps to get results; those results are sometimes not available for hours, days, or weeks. (They’re also difficult to use.) This new UCLA technique cuts out complicated steps, time, and cost.
Benefit to Public Health
If this technique takes off, it can have a huge impact on public health overall. Reporting to patients, doctors, and public health facilities in a speedy manner can affect early treatment intervention. Also, when it comes to widespread disease or epidemics, up-to-date reporting is crucial.
The test was conducted using streptavidin, a protein used commonly to test diagnostic experiments, and also a protein associated with influenza. Their technique worked beautifully and was able to detect the flu virus in minutes. More sophisticated blood samples will require further research to adapt this method. But, the groundwork has now been laid for other viruses and illnesses to be detected—just as quickly and simply.
Zika, Ebola, Cancer
With the continuing widespread of contagious diseases like Zika and Ebola, it’s essential that public health and medical officials receive prompt updates of new cases. It’s important for practitioners to get results as quickly as possible so as to treat the patient accordingly.
Additionally, a person with a contagious illness can keep the disease from spreading if he/she is alerted as soon as the test reveals positive for the strain. The Zika virus is transmittable through sexual intercourse. Because Zika often shows no symptoms, those carrying the virus do not know their status.
It is highly recommended that anyone in a Zika-mosquito-infested area gets tested, especially women who are pregnant or plan to be in the near future. Men also need to get tested as they can transmit the virus just as easily and without knowing.
The UCLA team plans to continue its research and development on their method of combining biomarker detection and the portable fluid-filter device. As the technique becomes more perfected, it will eventually enable doctors to read test results in less time than it takes to get a coffee at Starbucks. Those results will also be able to detect viruses like Zika and potentially killer diseases like cancer. Science can be great.