EPSRC IRC in Early-Warning Sensing Systems for Infectious Diseases
Globally, infectious diseases such as influenza, MRSA and HIV rank among the gravest threats to human health, alongside global warming and terrorism.1
i-sense is a five year, £11m EPSRC-funded programme that was launched in October 2013. Our vision is to engineer a new generation of early-warning sensing systems to identify disease outbreaks much earlier than before, using self-reported symptoms on the web and mobile phone-connected diagnostic tests.
Outbreaks of infectious disease can spread rapidly and unpredictably, causing enormous losses to health and livelihood. Worldwide, many infections remain undiagnosed and untreated due to poor diagnostic tools. This results in the on-going transmission of serious infections, such as HIV, and delay in the identification of emerging threats, for example pandemic influenza.
The best approach to control an outbreak is to identify the source of infection, stop it spreading at an early stage, or prevent it altogether. Therefore, early detection and vigilant monitoring is crucial.
Our mobile phone-connected diagnostic devices aim to widen access to testing in GP surgeries, in the community in the developing world and in the home. The capability to detect infections and then wirelessly connect test results to healthcare systems will help patients gain faster access to treatment, and support public health efforts to map indicators of emerging infections in real-time.
We are also using the vast amount of web-based information on Google, Facebook and Twitter to identify indicators of disease outbreaks, before people attend clinics, or from geographical regions that are not covered by traditional public health systems.
i-sense is led by University College London and brings together a team of scientists, engineers and clinicians from five leading universities - UCL, Imperial College London, Newcastle University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and University of Surrey, jointly with Public Health England and industrial and clinical partners.