NEW ORLEANS, April 10, 2013 Tiny versions of the reflectors on sneakers and bicycle fenders that help ensure the safety of runners and bikers at night are moving toward another role in detecting bioterrorism threats and diagnosing everyday infectious diseases, scientists said today.
Their report on progress in using these innovative "retroreflectors" the same technology that increases the night-time visibility of traffic signs was among almost 12,000 on the agenda of the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. More than 14,000 scientists and others are expected for the meeting, which continues here through Thursday.
"Our goal is the development of an ultrasensitive, all-in-one device that can quickly tell first-responders exactly which disease-causing microbe has been used in a bioterrorism attack," said Richard Willson, Ph.D., who leads the research. "In the most likely kind of attack, large numbers of people would start getting sick with symptoms that could be from multiple infectious agents. But which one? The availability of an instrument capable of detecting several agents simultaneously would greatly enhance our response to a possible bioterror attack or the emergence of a disease not often seen here."
Willson's team is developing another version of the technology intended for use in doctors' offices and clinics for rapid, on-site diagnosis of common infectious diseases before patients leave. Eliminating the need to wait for test results from an outside laboratory could allow patients to get the right treatment sooner and recover sooner, Willson noted.
One of those tests focuses on detecting norovirus, the dreaded "cruise ship virus," or "winter vomiting virus," which strikes more than 20 million people annually in the United States alone. Norovirus was in the headlines last December when it struck 220 people on the Queen Mary II.
|Contact: Michael Bernstein
504-670-4707 (New Orleans Press Center, April 5-10)