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Which Virus Is It?

Researchers at Harvard and MIT led by Lee Gehrke are developing an easy-to-use diagnostic for infectious diseases, the Harvard Crimson's Jasmine Hakimian reports.

This point-of-care diagnostic aims to pinpoint the viral cause of patients' fevers.

"If a patient comes into a clinic and has a fever, you want to be able to rule out some pathogens," Gehrke tells the Crimson. "In West Africa, there are a number of viruses that would present as fever, including Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg, so it is very useful to get a very quick idea of what the patient is suffering from."

Body fluid from a patient is applied to the device where it is routed through various channels and exposed to different chemicals and detection markers that turn color, indicating that protein from a certain virus is present.

At the same time, the lab is also developing a smartphone app to accompany the diagnostic so that researchers can track the spread of disease in real time.

"In public health, we don't have real-time maps for epidemiology, but that's important for saving the next lives," says José Gómez-Márquez, director of the Little Devices Lab at MIT and a collaborator on the device. "The prevailing attitude is looking at the past, which doesn't allow us to help the future."

The Gehrke Lab, the Crimson adds, is currently testing the device in the field.

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