Computer Nerds to Prevent Biocrises

If everyone would just listen to Jack, the show would be called 12.

It’s crunch time for Jack Bauer.

Once again, because a bunch of dumb-asses wouldn’t listen to what he said, a national security crisis has been dragged out much longer than should have been necessary. This time, the terrorists are going after the nation’s water supply.

The clock is ticking down (in a high-pitch, digital tone with climatic music in the background) to a deadline at which point a barrel filled with a new, deadly strain of E. Coli will be dumped into a major water reservoir. Jack has the bad guy tied up and is just finishing-up threatening the man’s family when he pulls out the shears.

As the man pleads with the insane national hero for the right to retain all of his digits, Jack’s cell phone goes off, luckily before Jack does.

After Jack yells into the phone, Chloe calmly informs him not to worry about it. They’ve managed to search the thousands of potential sources and have found the infected H2O in time.

“But how the hell is that possible?” Jack yells into the phone.

“There’s an app for that.”

Or at least, there will be soon, thanks to a new paper recently published by a joint research team from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Purdue University. According to lead author M. Murat Dundar, assistant professor of computer science, a new algorithm can help identify biological pathogens by site, even new strains that never have been seen before.

The technology already exists that allows for the isolation and visualization of microscopic pathogens by means of laser scanners or vibrational spectroscopy. However, these devices only can identify those substances for which they already have been programmed to recognize. And with thousands of new strains of bacteria evolving and emerging every single day, it simply is impossible to keep a database up to date on all of them.

The new computer program skirts this problem by a low level of artificial intelligence. As new variations of harmful pathogens are added to its database, it is able to make predictions and group unknown samples into the correct classifications.

The researchers hope to expand this ability to recognize new pathogens in blood samples as well, and hope to have the new detection system in all of the nation’s major centers as part of our bio-warning system.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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