Breaking News
December 19, 2018 - Protein may slow progression of emphysema, study finds
December 19, 2018 - Studying atrial fibrillation — and exploring new frontiers in precision health
December 19, 2018 - A New Way To Get College Students Through A Psychiatric Crisis — And Back To School
December 19, 2018 - Optum, UnitedHealthcare take action to help people affected by North Carolina winter storms
December 18, 2018 - Weight change in middle-aged, elderly Chinese Singaporeans related to increased risk of death
December 18, 2018 - Immune cells sacrifice themselves to protect us from invading bacteria
December 18, 2018 - Watching brain cells fire, with a twist of gravitational waves
December 18, 2018 - 2018 in Review
December 18, 2018 - Getting the Most Out of the CLARITY Technique
December 18, 2018 - NVF shoes provide a viable option for track and road racing
December 18, 2018 - CRISPR may restore effectiveness of chemotherapies used to treat lung cancer
December 18, 2018 - New app accurately measures and charts progression of skin wounds
December 18, 2018 - Persistent Discrimination ID’d Among Physician Mothers
December 18, 2018 - Cellphone technology developed to detect HIV
December 18, 2018 - A Stanford doctor hits the field with the 49ers — as their airway management physician
December 18, 2018 - The Rise of Anxiety Baking
December 18, 2018 - Just one night of sleep deprivation increases the urge to eat
December 18, 2018 - Study reveals mechanism behind failed remyelination in MS
December 18, 2018 - New genetic testing method increases the precision of biomarker analysis
December 18, 2018 - Simple technique to effectively treat underdiagnosed cause of debilitating chest pain
December 18, 2018 - Barbershop-based medical intervention can successfully lower blood pressure, new data shows
December 18, 2018 - Food labels have caused changes in consumers’ intake and industry’s use of key additives
December 18, 2018 - Sickest children could benefit from split liver transplants
December 18, 2018 - Scientists create patient-specific model to identify most effective treatment for appendix cancer
December 18, 2018 - New therapy for childhood blindness shows ‘very promising’ results
December 18, 2018 - Researchers discover promising new compound against Buruli ulcer
December 18, 2018 - Study finds significant use of traditional, complementary and alternative medicines in Sub-Saharan Africa
December 18, 2018 - California Farm Implicated in Outbreak of E. coli Tied to Romaine Lettuce
December 18, 2018 - Mobile health has power to transform HIV/AIDS nursing
December 18, 2018 - Celiac Vaccine in Clinical Trials at Columbia
December 18, 2018 - Research into mental health first aid prompts practical guidance and resources for workplace
December 18, 2018 - Researcher conducts study to investigate peripheral blood markers of Alzheimer’s disease
December 18, 2018 - Researchers identify link between mucus in the small airways and pulmonary fibrosis
December 18, 2018 - EU Commission’s Health Policy Platform to host EKHA program on transplantation
December 18, 2018 - Survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma have high risk of developing solid tumors
December 18, 2018 - Small changes to cafeteria design can get kids to eat healthier, new assessment tool finds
December 18, 2018 - From Machines to Cyclic Compounds
December 18, 2018 - New study reveals best assessment tools to establish delirium severity
December 18, 2018 - Rice University scientists develop synthetic protein switches to control electron flow
December 18, 2018 - Home-based pulmonary function monitoring for teens with Duchenne muscular dystrophy
December 18, 2018 - Researchers identify potential target for new breast cancer treatments
December 18, 2018 - National Biofilms Innovation Centre award grant to Neem Biotech for novel anti-biofilm drug development
December 18, 2018 - Artificial intelligence and the future of medicine
December 18, 2018 - Montana State doctoral student receives grant for her work to improve neuroscience tool
December 18, 2018 - Early postpartum initiation of opioids associated with persistent use
December 18, 2018 - Russian scientists identify molecular ‘switch’ that could be target for treatment of allergic asthma
December 18, 2018 - Surgeons make more mistakes in the operating room during stressful moments, shows study
December 18, 2018 - Immune cells explode themselves to inform about the danger of invading bacteria
December 18, 2018 - Malnutrition in children with Crohn’s disease linked with increased risk of surgical complications
December 18, 2018 - FDA Approves Motegrity (prucalopride) for Adults with Chronic Idiopathic Constipation (CIC)
December 18, 2018 - The long and short of CDK12
December 18, 2018 - Hologic’s Cynosure division introduces TempSure Surgical RF technology in North America
December 18, 2018 - CMR Surgical partners with Nicholson Center to launch U.S.-based training program for Versius
December 18, 2018 - Findings reinforce guidelines for cautious use of antipsychotics in younger populations
December 18, 2018 - Study finds new strains of hepatitis C virus in sub-Saharan Africa
December 18, 2018 - New battery-free, implantable device aids weight loss
December 18, 2018 - Parental alcohol use disorder associated with offspring marital outcomes
December 18, 2018 - Novel Breast Imaging Technique Might Cut Unnecessary Biopsies
December 18, 2018 - What can a snowflake teach us about how cancer spreads in the body?
December 18, 2018 - Management of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy costs the NHS more than previously thought
December 18, 2018 - Green leafy vegetables may reduce risk of developing liver steatosis
December 18, 2018 - Veganism linked to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition if not planned correctly
December 18, 2018 - Coming Soon: A Tiny Robot You Swallow to Help You Stay Healthy
December 18, 2018 - Modified malaria drug proven effective at inhibiting Ebola
December 18, 2018 - Study finds epigenetic differences in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia
December 18, 2018 - Fitness instructors’ motivational comments influence women’s body satisfaction
December 18, 2018 - Study focuses on modification of lipid nanoparticles for successful brain cell targeting
December 18, 2018 - New gut bacteria may be effective against obesity, metabolic and mental disorders
December 18, 2018 - New two-in-one powder aerosol to upgrade fight against deadly superbugs in lungs
December 18, 2018 - Biofilms feed with swirling flows
December 17, 2018 - Study identifies specific neurological changes related to traumatic brain injury
December 17, 2018 - New study confirms geographic bias in lung allocation for transplant
December 17, 2018 - Research focuses on optimization of solid lipid nanoparticle that encapsulates Vinorelbine bitartrate
December 17, 2018 - Carpal tunnel syndrome – Genetics Home Reference
December 17, 2018 - A novel insulin accelerant
December 17, 2018 - Tips for caring for patients with disabilities, from a mother and physician
December 17, 2018 - Menopause-related sexual, urinary problems tied to worse quality of life
December 17, 2018 - In-school nutrition programs among students limit increases in BMI, finds study
December 17, 2018 - Risk for Hospitalization for Heart Failure Greater With Diabetes
December 17, 2018 - Food assistance may help older adults adhere to diabetes meds
The ‘Gesundheit Machine’ collects campus cooties in race against a fierce flu

The ‘Gesundheit Machine’ collects campus cooties in race against a fierce flu

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

It’s turning out to be a particularly harsh flu season. The epidemic hasn’t hit the University of Maryland College Park yet; students are just getting back from winter break. But in the close quarters of dorm rooms and cafeterias and study groups, the flu will come. And when it does, Dr. Don Milton, a professor of environmental health, will be ready and waiting to learn from it.

On a blustery January day, Milton was with undergraduate research assistants Louie Gold and Amara Fox trying to get students to sign up for his new study on how the flu — and other viruses — spread. They had vouchers for the school convenience store, free hot chocolate and handmade signs.

Milton was hoping dozens of students would enroll. And when any of them gets sick, they would be sent to the clinic at the School of Public Health, just across the street from the dorms.

That very day, a sick student did come by, but she didn’t make the cut.

“She had some of the right symptoms: cough, little bit of runny nose, but didn’t have much of a fever,” said Dr. Barbara Albert, who screened her for the study. In other words, they’re looking for the people whom everyone else wants to stay away from.

Gesundheit!

If a student is sick enough, they get sent around the corner, to a room with a crazy-looking, Rube-Goldberg-like contraption known as the “Gesundheit Machine.”

For half an hour, the student sits in the machine. As they breathe, the machine collects whatever virus they’ve got from the droplets in the breath they exhale.

The researchers will then use the students’ contacts to try to figure out how infections spread from person to person.

“Roommates, study buddies, girlfriends and boyfriends,” Milton said. “We’re going to swab them every day for a week to see if they get infected.”

If they do get infected, researchers will try to pin down if they got the bug from the original subject, or someone else.

“We’re going to deep-sequence the genetic code of the agent to see if it was really exactly the same thing,” Milton explained. He’s aware confirming that your roommate gave you a horrible flu could ruin some perfectly nice roommate relationships, but it’s for science.​

Information For Safer Environments

The fact is, he said, we don’t know that much about the mechanics of how bugs spread. He’s trying to understand it from every possible angle.

“We’re measuring the environment in the rooms, contact, biomarkers from blood, what they’re shedding into the air,” he said.

All the data is not just for our information, but so we can design spaces to keep infections from spreading too easily, and protect ourselves more effectively.

That’s how he and his research staff can be around sick people all the time without getting infected themselves. They all got flu shots, of course, but Milton went further.

“Downstairs where the patients come in, we have upper-room UV to sanitize the air in those rooms,” he said. During his last flu study, it worked. “Not a single person on my research team got the flu that year. Even though we saw 156 people, some of whom were shedding up to 10 million copies per half-hour of the virus, none of my people got sick.”

He hopes environmental measures like these could be used to fight bugs that are even worse than the flu.

“What about pandemics and what about new infections that come along? How can we defend against those?” Milton asked. “It is possible, even if it’s airborne, to protect against it. We just need to understand how it works better.”

The information they get from this study could, for example, lead to better ventilation systems that would make it harder for the flu and even more dangerous viruses to spread.

This story is part of a partnership that includes WAMU, NPR and Kaiser Health News.


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles