Dr. R. Paul Schaudies of GenArraytion and PositiveID Corporation (OTC:PSID) have announced collaborative plans that could help bring even more innovation to disease detection technology. Dr. Schaudies will join PositiveID’s advisory board, offering his expertise on a variety of related matters. Dr. Schaudies has previously worked with the corporation, assisting with the successful detection of the Zika virus through PositiveID’s Firefly Dx prototype real-time, point-of-need pathogen detection system. The team’s research is more relevant now than ever with concerns about the virus spreading around the world and its devastating effects.
It is estimated that 1.65 million mothers in Latin American countries could be infected with the Zika virus while they are pregnant. This could lead to tens of thousands of cases of Zika transmission from mother to child. While numbers related to the amount of Zika infections have previously been vague, The University of Notre Dame and the University of Southampton in Britain found that the number of infected mothers could even be as high as 2 million.
Researchers explain that Zika-transmitting mosquitoes have infected up to 75 percent of the human population in a given area within a year. This could be the continuation of a Zika epidemic that would spread to most of the world. The Zika virus is known for causing severe birth defects and brain damage in infected infants, including microcephaly and nerve issues.
PositiveID Corporation is a life sciences company that emphasizes early detection through portable diagnostics. The company designs equipment that allows emergency medical workers to obtain lab-quality results in a field setting. This could make virus detection faster and easier, which is important when dealing with a disease epidemic and crowds. PositiveID has previously worked with Dr. Schaudies on the Firefly Dx prototype, a portable pathogen detection system under development that is designed to offer virus detection in minutes instead of hours or days. The Firefly Dx prototype proved successful at detecting the Zika virus using GenArraytion’s assay.
In cooperation with Dr. Schaudies and the GenArraytion MultiFLEX molecular assay detection system, PositiveID was able to identify such viruses as dengue fever, Chikungunya, Zika and yellow fever. All four viruses are transmitted by the same type of mosquito. The Firefly Dx is a handheld detection system, which makes it easier for health workers to test individuals in large settings, such as the Brazilian Olympic Games. When taking a large number of people to a medical facility for pathogen testing is impractical, handheld devices allow infected individuals to be identified and quarantined for public safety. Such early detection systems could drastically reduce the rate at which an epidemic spreads.
Having the ability to quickly identify bio-threats offers other applications in the world health community as well. The Firefly Dx system is being designed to make containment of bio-threats faster, easier and safer for health workers and the public. Because Zika poses such a severe threat to pregnant women and infants, it is crucial for those infected to be diagnosed as soon as possible. The more cases of Zika that are detected and quarantined, the fewer women will become infected.
The partnership between Dr. Schaudies and PositiveID is expected to have a significant impact on PositiveID and its continued development and testing of Firefly Dx. With an experienced scientist like Dr. Schaudies taking on an advisory role, PositiveID will have even more expertise on-hand when it comes to developing new technologies and addressing world health crises such as the Zika virus. Other serious health issues such as Chikungunya could also be contained more effectively through the use of the innovative technology developed through this partnership.
GenArraytion’s Zika assay has received significant attention from the press around the world, which helps bring attention to the important issue of Zika testing. With the two Zika virus tests Dr. Schaudies has developed, researchers have a much greater chance of accurately detecting the virus both in the field in response situations and before it spreads widely to human populations. While most adults who are infected with the Zika virus experience flu-like symptoms and are not likely to face fatal complications, the rate of infant mortality and life-long birth defects in infants who are infected makes this one of the most serious health crises facing the world.
With the location of the next Olympic Games in Brazil, an area that has been significantly affected by Zika, the world is looking to PositiveID and experts such as Dr. Schaudies to provide the innovative technology solutions necessary to quell an epidemic. Technologies such as Firefly Dx are working to put the resources of a laboratory into the hands of medical professionals and first responders around the world.
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