First Opinion: Glowing Green Bacteria Tests for Flu at Home

For everyone who has ever wondered whether they have a harmless cold or a dangerous flu (and whether it’s necessary to skip work), future technology might hold a simple way to figure it out at home. FluDOC is a (currently) conceptual kit that uses genetically modified luminescent bacteria to tell users whether they’re currently infected with influenza or simply coming down with a cold.

The FluDOC would be simple to operate: the user would pop a bio-luminescent tablet into the device’s chamber, then use the included swab to take a saliva sample from his or her mouth. The swab is put into the chamber and the action of replacing the chamber’s cap pierces the tablet, releasing the bacteria inside. The bacteria dies upon contact with influenza, so if the glow in the chamber goes out within 15 minutes the user can rest assured that it would be wise to use a sick day.

Diagnosing the flu at home can save users money by avoiding unnecessary doctor visits, but even more importantly it can help contain potentially dangerous illnesses. Unfortunately, the bio-luminescent bacteria used in the FluDOC’s design hasn’t yet been engineered, but designer Jan van der Asdonk feels that they will soon be bred to serve our needs, much like farm animals.

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See more in Medical Marvels or under Science. June, 2010.