Rutgers researchers have developed a way of detecting the early onset of deadly infectious diseases using a test so ultrasensitive that it could someday revolutionize medical approaches to epidemics. The test, described in Science Advances, is an electronic sensor contained within a computer chip. It employs nanoballs – microscopic spherical clumps made of tinier particles of genetic material, each of those with diameters 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair – and combines that technology with advanced electronics.

“During the COVID pandemic, one of the things that didn’t exist but could have stemmed the spread of the virus was a low-cost diagnostic that could flag people known as the ‘quiet infected’ – patients who don’t know they are infected because they are not exhibiting symptoms,” said Mehdi Javanmard, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Rutgers School of Engineering and an author of the study. “In a pandemic, pinpointing an infection early with accuracy is the Holy Grail. Because once a person is showing symptoms – sneezing and coughing – it’s too late. That person has probably infected 20 people.” To read the full story.