Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Virus or Bacteria?

PostedNovember 10, 2013

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Anchor Lead: You feel awful. But are you sick with a virus or bacteria? Knowing is critical for treatment, but doctors often have to just make their best guess.

Randy Atkins: A simple blood test – done right in the doctor’s office -- may one day soon be able to confirm whether you have a virus.

Lawrence Carin: We’re actually not detecting the virus. We’re detecting the so-called host response to the virus, where the host is the human body.

Randy Atkins: Lawrence Carin is an engineer at Duke University. He’s using computers to search through human D-N-A and spot which genes are activated to fight a viral infection.

Lawrence Carin: Given the fact that we have over twenty-thousand genes, that’s really a needle in a haystack problem.

Randy Atkins: Carin found that activity in only about ten specific genes – easily detected in a blood sample – can reliably confirm battle with a virus…and avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.

Anchor Tag: The test has worked well in research settings, but is several years away from being commercially available.