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Virus warner to stop winter vomiting disease

Published Jan 20, 2011

The period between November and April - that is, right now - is the high season for the virus-based winter vomiting disease. What if there was a technology that could warn of disease in the air so that people could avoid such places. Well, there is. KTH researchers have invented a virus warner.

Niklas Sandström
Niklas Sandström, researcher at the Department of Microsystems Technology at KTH

Together with other researchers at the Department of Microsystems Technology at KTH, Niklas Sandström is developing tracking technology that will provide quick answers to who is carrying an infectious virus which will help hospitals, retirement homes and daycare centres to stop the spread. The hope is also that we will not have to worry as much when we are in public spaces.

"The test could for example be carried out in a hospital. Staff can then quickly take steps to limit the spread and prevent a major outbreak. Otherwise you are forced to close several wards and this would be costly because the hospital cannot function normally," Niklas Sandström explains.

The instrument uploads the viral particles that are present in the air and attracts them to a sensor that can measure particle levels down to a few nanograms. There are antibodies on the sensor that have the ability to capture and hold down the virus, while other particles are removed. In just a minutes you can therefore decide whether or not it is the extremely contagious winter vomiting disease.

In the current situation, scientists can collect viral particles from the air in a room but soon they hope to also be able to detect the virus directly to a person. The instrument's sensor weighs the virus particles contained in your breath.

"The flu is a different air-borne viral infection that we are considering testing with the same method in the future. The ability to quickly diagnose such a contagious disease, which for some groups of people may be life threatening, would be of great benefit to society," says Niklas Sandström.

But it's not just at places of work, retirement homes, schools or kindergartens that can make use of the technology.

"In the future, we may not need to worry so much when we find ourselves in public places if they are screened for infectious diseases. We may be able to very easily find out ourselves if we've got a viral infection and therefore stay at home or be signed off work sick by a doctor to reduce the spread of infection," says Niklas Sandström.

The tracking technology is a collaboration between KTH, Karolinska Institute and Linköping University.

For more information, contact Niklas Sandström at 08-790 92 31 or

Peter Larsson