Scientists have created a compact sensor for the diagnosis of influenza virus

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    Recent outbreaks of infectious diseases have demonstrated that fast, non-invasive methods for diagnosing them are not enough. In modern realities, it is quite difficult to detect, for example, the influenza virus on your own: in most cases, a person has no idea whether he is infected until certain symptoms appear, and most often this moment comes too late. Scientists from the University of Texas at Arlington under the leadership of Pelagia-Irene Gouma (Pelagia-Irene Gouma) created a device that can detect the flu in its early stages, in its structure resembling a breathalyzer. The main difference from breathalysers or household carbon monoxide detectors lies in the specificity of sensors that detect gas.

    One of the main advantages of the device is its low cost of manufacture. The device fits easily into a pocket, runs on battery power and in the future can transmit analysis results using wireless technologies. One exhalation is enough for semiconductor sensors to detect the presence and concentration of biomarkers in exhaled air, indicating a disease. The basis of the sensor incorporated a portable chip with three sensors.

    When creating sensors, the team of scientists relied on numerous medical literature on well-known biomarkers that are present in the patient’s exhalation with a particular disease. They then applied this knowledge to find the right combination of sensors for those biomarkers that would accurately determine the flu. So, people with asthma increase the concentration of nitric oxide in their breathing. It can be detected using acetone, a well-known biomarker for screening diabetes and metabolic processes. In the course of data analysis, the researchers found that the most accurate diagnosis of the influenza virus is possible when analyzing nitric oxide, volatile organic compounds and an ammonia sensor.

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    Today, to detect biomarkers in human breathing without the use of nanotechnology requires expensive high-tech laboratory equipment, which, moreover, is managed by qualified personnel. With pocket-sized devices of the new generation, any person can diagnose the disease quickly and accurately. In the future, the technology is able to evolve into a personalized diagnosis of not only the influenza virus - people will be able to detect, for example, Ebola at an early stage, simply by replacing the corresponding sensors.

    Gauma already has several such sensors for detecting asthma, monitoring diabetes, and determining the end point for hemodialysis. In the future, a team of scientists plans to develop the technology and release individual screening tools that will be available without a prescription. Patients will be able to monitor their health and share the data with their doctor in real time. It will also help reduce the cost of medical care and detect various diseases in a timely manner.

    In 2017, similar sensors for the diagnosis of lung cancer were developed by scientists from the University of Hamburg. A sensor based on photoacoustic spectroscopy is able to recognize the six most significant volatile organic compounds associated with this disease. A few years earlier, a sensor for screening colorectal cancer appeared on the basis of screen printing of metal oxide semiconductor films that recognize gases indicating the presence of oncological diseases.

    Scientists from all over the world are working to create an inexpensive and effective way to diagnose and monitor infectious diseases. So researchers from Singapore studiedThe link between social media platforms and the fight against the spread of infections during the outbreak of bird flu in China, which occurred in 2013. They found that social networks are especially useful in providing relevant first-hand information - sometimes several hours faster than official sources and the media. In addition, information from the account on the social network can give an idea of ​​the patient's lifestyle, which will help in the treatment. In the US, social media is already actively used to track cases of food poisoning and STDs.

    The scientific work published in the journal Sensors January 20, 2017
    DOI: 10.3390 / s17010199

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