Electronic Noses May Avert Next Global Pandemic

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According to recent reports in The Independent and the Drudge Report, a new worldwide pandemic is on its way, an event which could rival the Black Plague and “kill 50 million people and wreak massive disruption around the globe.” Former Surgeons General Dr. C. Everett Koop and Dr. David Satcher describe the threat as imminent. "The pattern makes you believe the likelihood of a pandemic - (probably) avian flu - is very real,'' Satcher said. "You have to believe it's around the corner somewhere.''

The outbreaks people are concerned about are real threats, but they can be prevented

One of the biggest obstacles to containing this pandemic, Dr. Koop notes, is that "we're fighting today's pandemic with the same tools we had 100 years ago." The critical challenge in preventing or containing a pandemic outbreak is early, rapid, and mobile screening. Historically, the viruses which cause such suffering and mass death have outpaced our ability to detect and act.

But according to Dr. Kevin Pegg, this disaster may be averted thanks to an unusual device: an electronic nose.

Dr. Pegg, chief developer for QualSec Sensors, is working on a technology which could instantly screen for diseases such as avian flu or tuberculosis. According to industry site Biodetect.org, the device, an electronic sensor or e-nose, is inexpensive, highly mobile, and able to discern particles smaller than one part per billion. With such a device, the Centers for Disease Control and other health agencies could swiftly screen and quarantine the infected population until the outbreak was contained.

"The outbreaks people are concerned about are real threats, but they can be prevented," Pegg said. "Governments and health agencies around the world will need to mobilize quickly in order to detect these diseases before they can spread, especially at places like international airports. That's where e-nose technology comes in."

How E-noses work

Electronic noses, such as the one Dr. Pegg is creating, work by detecting Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. E-noses function something like a breathalyzer test, taking in samples of air and creating an olfactory fingerprint that uniquely identifies diseases like tuberculosis or the flu. Dr. Pegg's devices are hand-held, extremely mobile and are easy to operate.

E-noses: A Growth Area

By offering fast and non-invasive methods for detecting illnesses before they evolve into outbreaks or pandemics, e-nose technology has the potential to revolutionize not just the health care industry, but other industries as well.

Bionic-nose.com, a site devoted to discussion of e-nose technology, tracks the development of these devices, which will be instrumental in helping the homeland security and food industries to detect explosives, hazardous chemicals and diseases. The effectiveness of these devices in detecting multiple substances, as well as their relevance across industries, points to a possibility for substantial growth in the e-nose marketplace.

The Pandemic That Never Happened

The research progress of E-nose companies like QualSec Sensors brings a 21st-century set of detection tools to the task at hand, enabling governments and hospitals to fight potential pandemics quickly and effectively, drastically reducing their impact. Like the rest of us, Dr. Koop may be relieved to know humanity is now fighting this war with a shiny new toolset.

For more information, please contact David Hart at 919-237-3833 or hart@bionic-nose.com.

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