Professors Richard Dluhy, Stephen Tompkins and Ralph Tripp have been granted one-point-one million dollars to study methods that would better predict and detect emerging influenza strains.
With new technology, they will be able to differentiate between different strands of the virus in minutes. This would allow researchers to identify a potentially deadly flu strain if it emerges, and immediately begin steps to prevent an outbreak.
The method they are working on is called nano-optical detection; it will use laser light beams that alert researchers to abnormal flu strains enabling them to create vaccines early.
Professor Dluhy said that abnormal strains of the flu virus have led to epidemics that caused high mortality rates. He cited that in 1918, the influenza virus killed over 50 million people because the strain of the flu that year was so highly pathogenic.
The research team hopes to create the technology so that it can eventually be accessible in an easy to use hand held device. Money for the research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and will take place in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.