How Nanobiophysics Can Stop Ebola and Other Global Pandemics

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

In an age of cell phones, human genome sequencing, and Google self-driving cars, even the world’s best hospitals (and airports) are still relying upon a thermometer (a 400-year-old technology) to decide who to quarantine for Ebola. The result of these antiquated approaches for diagnosing Ebola has resulted in over 1,400 Ebola suspects in the U.S. today who still have not received a definitive diagnosis.

As a physicist and physician, I have spent the last 20 years innovating new technologies at the nexus of physics, biomedicine, and nanotechnology. Through this new science of nanobiophysics, we have a pathway to quantum leap our current capabilities for combatting Ebola and leave the thermometer behind. I have made this case directly to top officials in recent weeks at the Departments of Defense, State, Health and Human Services, and CDC, as well as CEOs and CMOs of our nation’s leading hospitals.

The Problem with Using Thermometers to Triage Ebola Cases

First, it typically takes 10-21 days after a person has been infected with Ebola for fever to show up. Meanwhile, the Ebola virus continues to replicate in the blood during this “incubation period” so that by the time the fever manifests, the patient has between 50,000 and 100,000 copies of Ebola virus infecting every milliliter of his/her blood. The thermometer thus has low sensitivity for detecting Ebola, resulting in a high rate of false negatives. An unfortunate case in point: Thomas Eric Duncan – the first domestic Ebola case, showed no feverish symptoms when he entered the country from Liberia.

With the current Ebola protocol, individuals can wait in limbo for as long as three weeks without a definitive diagnosis. During this time, individuals are neither quarantined (i.e. stopped from infecting others) nor treated. Recent findings inmonkeys and humans have shown that providing even supportive therapy to an Ebola-infected individual early in the incubation period significantly increases the likelihood of survival.

Source: Wired (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases