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Sunday, July 25th, 2021

Sandia Labs developing powerful disease identification technique

Sandia National Laboratories discussed its new technique for simultaneously identifying mosquito-born diseases like West Nile virus, Zika virus, and malaria or the Ebola virus on Monday.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop an autonomous device to passively monitor for mosquito-borne diseases,” Robert J. Meagher, one of the scientists responsible for developing the technique, said. “But first you need an assay that is more robust than the gold standard in a laboratory and that has a very low false-positive rate.”

The technique is called QUESR and was originally developed by Meagher and Sandia colleagues Yooli Light and Chung-Yan Koh, along with postdoctoral researcher Cameron Ball and a number of other experts.

“Conceptually, it’s not difficult to adapt the assay for a different virus,” Meagher said. “There is some trial and error involved in refinement as you are dealing with a different virus and human sample.”

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of harmful diseases, the ability to fight against them must also rapidly evolve. Being able to distinguish between potential errors and new diseases is an essential part of the current developmental phase of QUESR.

“Even a marginal false positive rate would defeat the purpose of an autonomous monitoring device,” Meager said. “The signal amplification, the amazing brightness of the positive response, was not a goal but certainly a welcome result. I’m very excited about what this technique can do for field workers. The ability to make fast decisions about where to direct mosquito abatement resources or how to triage patients will help us stay ahead of mosquito-borne disease outbreaks.”