Whooping cough (pertussis) has made a comeback in recent years, with over 40,000 cases being reported in 2012 — the highest number since 1959. Although vaccines are available, and public schools often mandate the vaccine, the disease has begun to reappear. The illness is easily mistaken for the common cold, and children are often allowed to continue to attend school until a doctor’s visit and a diagnosis of whooping cough is made. During that time, the disease is spreading to others.
With a recent grant given to Delfina C. Domínguez, Ph.D., a professor of clinical laboratory sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), the increase in diagnosed cases will hopefully decline in the near future. Domínguez is collaborating with XiuJun (James) Li, Ph.D., from the Department of Chemistry at UTEP to create a low-cost diagnostic device for whooping cough that offers rapid results.
This device offers quick and accurate results with just a simple nose swab, making it a convenient option for school nurses, doctors’ offices, and third world countries. The swab can be placed into a small portable device that will change the color of the swab if the patient tests positive for pertussis. Early diagnosis of whooping cough in this way can prevent it from continually being spread to others, ultimately lessening the overall number of diagnosed cases of the disease.
The grant awarded to Domínguez is in the amount of $5,000 and will be used to begin construction and testing on the device, and she will present her research on July 31 at the ASCLS Annual Meeting in Houston.