What a great development by someone so young. This is the kind of thing which gives me hope for the future.
After the high school junior from Greenwich, Connecticut saw news reports of the devastation caused by last year's Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Olivia became determined to find a way to help prevent the highly infectious and often fatal virus from spreading. She realized that the tests being used to detect Ebola were of limited value -- they required 12 hours to determine if someone was infected and, even worse, they needed constant refrigeration which was often not available in the remote areas most affected by the outbreak. In response, this inventive young scientist has developed a new Ebola Assay Card which can be shipped and stored without refrigeration and detect Ebola in as little as 30 minutes.
“Early diagnosis and proper medical care are critical to containing and eliminating the spread of Ebola and any other contagious illnesses,” Olivia says. Patients diagnosed with Ebola early are less likely to spread the disease since they can be quarantined properly, and they also have a 50% lower fatality rate. But outbreaks often occur in poverty-stricken areas with poor infrastructure which limits the effectiveness of refrigeration-dependent Ebola tests.
She remembered a science lesson about silk storage, and wondered if silk could stabilize the reagents used in Ebola tests so they would be viable at room temperature. By embedding the four reagents used to test for Ebola in silk fibroin, Olivia found that they were seven times more stable than those not embedded in silk. Her testing card, which can be used with a simple fluid sample like saliva, also produces a result in 30 minutes. With further development, Olivia says that her assay method could also be used for testing other diseases such as HIV, Lyme disease, yellow fever, dengue fever, as well as certain types of cancers.
Most importantly, she hopes that it can help the world address epidemics of diseases like Ebola promptly -- because, she notes, disease is a global problem. “Nothing exists in isolation,” Olivia told the Greenwich Time. “What affects one country affects everyone. We have to work together to find answers to the enormous challenges that threaten global health, our environment and our world.”
To learn more about Olivia's research, you can visit her Google Science Fair project page at http://bit.ly/1QDosjI
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