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Notre Dame professor creates light-based flu test

NOTRE DAME, Ind. --  The CDC now says the flu season has hit its peak.

Researchers are already looking for ways to make the next flu season, and the ones to come, better. 

It starts off simply: you're achy, stuffy, and feel absolutely miserable.

You think you have the flu.

In Indiana alone, there have been 244 flu-related deaths: five in Elkhart County and seven in St. Joseph County. 

"This year, it's been particularly bad," says Professor Bradley Smith. "Flu detection is an obvious problem."

Smith is a chemistry and biochemistry professor at the University of Notre Dame, but he also serves as the Director of the Notre Dame Integrated Imaging Facility.

He says, without a proper diagnosis, taking care of the flu, and preventing the spread of the virus, can't happen.

"There are some tests available, but they take time and some of them are quite expensive," adds Smith.

It's a problem that he was determined to shed some light on.

How?

Fluorescent dyes, a laser pointer, and a sample of the flu virus.

"If it's a blue light, you don't have the flu. If it's a red light, you have the flu," explains Smith, as he shines a laser pointer over an altered sample of the virus. 

Smith and his research team have worked tirelessly on this prototype. 

It's research that he believes could be life changing.

"We try to work on problems that will have a huge impact on the world," he says. 

But they're hoping that impact, isn't just limited to influenza. 

"One of the things we're focusing on now, is how this life changing dye technology can be used to detect other disease," explains Smith.

They believe with time, funding, and hard work, they can change the face of medicine, with a flick of a switch.

"It could be used in other viral infections," he says. "Maybe as a cancer test. Could someone actually tell, from a saliva sample or something, whether they have cancer? It's a bit of a science fiction idea, but it's something we're thinking about."

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