ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- We’ve all heard about the threat of a pandemic. Scientists say during a major disease outbreak, or even a bioterrorism attack, one of the biggest enemies could be time. Using traditional testing, it can take days -- even weeks -- to confirm a diagnosis and isolate those infected. Now, science may have found a way to speed up the clock.
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Every day, millions of people travel in and out of U.S. airports from cities all over the world; and they’re bringing more with them than just their baggage -- they're bringing germs.
"If you really sit and think about it, it’s a lot to be concerned about because everything is spreading so fast these days," one concerned airline traveler told Ivanhoe.
Airports already screen your bags. Now, University of Georgia scientists have developed a system that could one day screen you -- for disease. Researchers say the rapid response system can detect viruses from a nasal swab in one minute or less.
"We can detect within 30 seconds -- 30 to 60 seconds -- the molecular fingerprint of a virus or bacteria based on its nucleic acid sequence," Ralph Tripp, Ph.D., a viral immunologist for the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia, told Ivanhoe.
The virus is exposed to a laser light which highlights the virus’ unique molecular "fingerprint." knowing this "fingerprint" helps viral immunologists identify the virus.
"Absolutely, yeah, these are fingerprints of individual viruses," Jeremy Driskell, Ph.D., an analytical chemist at the University of Georgia, told Ivanhoe.
Chemists say the technique is so powerful, it can detect even a single virus particle in seconds and identify countless mutations -- whether it’s flu, rotavirus or something else. They’re already developing a laptop-sized testing station for airport screening.
"It’ll provide you with a red light, green light effect saying yes, this person has or has not the virus that you’re looking at," Dr. Tripp said.
For disease outbreaks and bioterrorism, or simply speeding up a doctor’s diagnosis, researchers say this new technique could one day be an important weapon in the fight against disease.
The Optical Society of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report with support from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.
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