SAN DIEGO (NNS) – Scientists from the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) held a two-day meeting to discuss progress and goals for a joint biosurveillance project, March 7-8.
NHRC has collaborated with DTRA and the Joint Science and Technology Office on the Field Forward Diagnostics program since 2013 to develop novel point of need (PON) diagnostics to identify pathogens that cause acute febrile illnesses and threaten global and public health.
“The goal of the program is to enhance readiness by enabling our warfighters to use handheld diagnostic devices in the field to detect pathogens that can cause incapacitating or deadly diseases,” said Capt. Rita Simmons, NHRC commanding officer. “Once a pathogen has been identified, immediate guidance could be provided to troops and their leaders to help them deal appropriately with the health threat. This project has the potential to significantly impact medical and mission readiness.”
The joint NHRC and DTRA team will evaluate the handheld devices for ease of use and test a system for broadcasting data from the devices to remotely located subject-matter experts for real-time decision making on events occurring in far-forward areas. The project would bring the expertise of medical and public health professionals to troops in the field.
According to Dr. Christopher Myers, department head for biosurveillance at NHRC, emerging infectious diseases that our military could encounter around the globe, particularly those found in tropical settings such as dengue, Burkholderia melioidosis, and malaria, are often difficult to distinguish by their clinical characteristics alone.
“Confirmation from a laboratory is needed for a definitive diagnosis, but if you’re in the field, forward deployed, a lab can be hard to come by,” said Myers.
As part of the collaborative effort, NHRC will monitor all sites involved in the study to ensure that protocols are being followed and data properly collected. NHRC will also provide logistical support by shipping supplies and instruments, and coordinating maintenance and repairs as needed, to the different study sites around the globe.
As the DoD’s premier deployment health research center, NHRC’s cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation’s armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.
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