Insight into Infectious Diseases

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) www.jhuapl.edu have mapped the movements of a simulated pathogen through a medical biocontainment facility.

JHU’s state-of-the-art biocontainment unit at JHU Hospitals developed after the 2014 Ebola outbreak, is designed to care for patients with highly infectious diseases while ensuring the safety of both the patients and health workers.

The plan is to develop protocols to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in order to protect hospital patients and caregivers. The APL team was funded under their National Health Mission Area which is designed to predict and prevent illness, injury and disease. The goal is to rapidly detect and respond to changes in health status, restore and sustain health, and improve overall health and human performance.

APL in collaborating with researchers from JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health www.jhsph.edu, and the School of Medicine www.hopkinsmedicine.org/som, Johns Hopkins Hospital, plus assistance from CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) www.cdc.gov/niosh, have conducted tests. Researchers have been able to track the flight of fluorescent aerosolized beads which share many properties of an infectious pathogen.

“However, no protocols existed before 2014 for preventing infectious disease dissemination in a biocontainment unit”, said David Drewry III, the APL Biomedical Engineer who has leading the study.

Drewry adds, “The study provides a systematic method for evaluating an aerosolized pathogen’s path through a biocontainment unit and can be used to develop standardized protocols as well as identify potential risk areas. While the presence of particles doesn’t necessarily mean disease dissemination, it may indicate increased risk of disease exposure.”

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