Defense teams rapidly deploy mobile, cloud biosurveillance tools
Scientists as the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have spent the past two years helping the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) better predict pending epidemics and regional disease outbreaks.
The objective is at the heart of two linked programs at DTRA. First, the 24 Month Challenge is a multi-agency project to identify and develop diagnostic devices needed to make biosurveillance analytics a reality. Meanwhile, a parallel DTRA program is developing a cloud database that analyzes the incoming data, according to the NRL announcement.
In the first phase of the 24 Month Challenge, the NRL team solicited proposals for diagnostic technologies that met several core requirements: the ability to differentiate the cause of febrile illness and send the diagnostic data to the cloud database. Evaluations over the past year whittled down the original list to four technologies, enabling NRL to work with three companies to develop prototype technologies that directly address the program's requirements.
"NRL has developed a relationship with two companies, InBIOS International Inc. and ChemBio Diagnostics Systems Inc., that make lateral flow immunoassay strips or LFIs. For reference, the best known example of a LFI is the home pregnancy test," said the NRL principal investigator Shawn Mulvaney. "We then challenged these companies to make their new LFIs capable of detecting the causative agents for malaria, dengue fever, melioidosis, and the plague using only a blood sample obtained from a finger prick. These are some of the most concerning diseases found in theater, particularly for our troops stationed in tropical climates."
NRL has also partnered with Fio Corp. to use the Deki Reader for test analysis and communications. The Deki Reader is a portable unit built around an Android smartphone. It can use its camera feature to take pictures of every test result, and the software can guide the user, analyze the outcomes, and upload the data over the cellular network.
"This is a clever solution to multiple challenges," said NRL’s Mulvaney.
Based on strong analytical data obtained during NRL's testing, the three technologies are set for field-trials in South America, Africa and southeast Asia.
Posted by GCN Staff on Mar 25, 2014 at 9:56 AM