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News Outlets Examine Development Of Low-Cost Diagnostic Tool, Infectious Disease Surveillance

CNN examines the work of a Harvard University chemistry professor to “shrink a medical laboratory onto a piece of paper that’s the size of a fingerprint and costs about a penny.” According to George Whitesides, who created a prototype of the inexpensive paper “chip,” the technology could be used to diagnose such diseases as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries.

As CNN describes, “Patients put a drop of blood on one side of the slip of paper, and on the other appears a colorful pattern in the shape of a tree, which tells medical professionals whether the person is infected with certain diseases. …The ink funnels a patient’s blood into tree-like channels, where several layers of treated paper react with the blood to create diagnostic colors.”

The piece details plans to combine the technology of the paper chips with mobile phones in the developing world. “Since people in remote parts of Africa and Asia often have to travel great distances by public transit or foot to reach a medical clinic, patients simply can take photos of the chips with cell phones and then send them to larger cities for diagnosis. Whitesides said his group is also working with a cell phone maker to develop apps that would tell patients the results of their tests automatically if doctors aren’t available,” CNN writes.

Whitesides estimates the first paper chip products will be available “in about a year,” according to CNN. The piece features a video clip with Whitesides, who describes the paper chip technology (Sutter, 2/25).

Researchers Use Olympics To Study Infectious Disease

Canwest News Service/Vancouver Sun examines how researchers are taking advantage of the international gathering in Vancouver this month for the Winter Olympics to study the transmission of disease by air travel. “Two projects in Toronto and Boston – both led by Canadians – are tracking international flights to the West Coast city, as well as an online database of worldwide diseases, in order to test a sophisticated system that could one day prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” the news service writes. By analyzing the global air traffic patterns and diseases “logged in ‘real time’ as they are reported online,” researchers “hope to learn of potential outbreaks before they happen,” the news service writes.

“If we can understand how the global community is interconnected, then we can understand how we share risks in the world and how we might share responsibilities for infectious disease threats,” said Kamran Khan, of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, a leader of one of the projects involved. Khan “said the Vancouver experiment has shown any potentially infectious diseases brought into Canad[a] to be under control. He said the projects will also be put to use for other events, such as this summer’s G20 meeting in Ontario and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa” (Stone, 2/25).

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