Ebola, Mass Spectrometry Proteomics, Integrated Virus Detection System and Me (and my Noble Prize Nominated Father in Law)
Note to readers, my return to bloggerville is not my usual dribble about training, my beard, or changing diapers. To the best of my knowledge this information is accurate and a direct result of a conversation I had with my father-in-law, Dr. Charles Wick last night (October 16, 2014) about two microbe detection technologies he was instrumental in developing; Mass Spectrometry Proteomics and Integrated Virus Detection Systems (IVDS).
Charles Wick, PhD is a retired senior scientist from the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) who has been a large player in the development of two separate technologies, Mass Spectrometry Proteomics and IVDS. He is an accomplished scientist who has spent a career developing ways to detect and identify microbes – viruses, bacteria, fungi. Along with being nominated for the Nobel Prize for his developments and research Charles has also received many accolades as both a civilian contractor and reservist in the US ARMY. He has edited two books, written multiple papers, and holds numerous patents regarding the use of Mass Spectrometry Proteomics and IVDS. Information regarding Charles’s two books and contact information can be found on a simple webpage he created at www.chw42.com.
I was compelled to call Charles to discuss the current state of affairs regarding Ebola and EV68 because of his obvious expertise, to get information from a credible source that I trusted and what can only be described as a gut feeling or hunch. To be perfectly honest I’m also scared to death for my 3 children. This blog post is my attempt to get the quality information that I learned from Charles to people I care about in the best way I know how. I was floored by what Charles had to say regarding his technology and the current state of affairs in this country and the world regarding microbe detection and identification. I don’t want to hope this thing gets better, especially when there is existing technology that could make it better right now. That’s correct; the technology Charles developed can be used right now to detect Ebola, EV68 and all related and unrelated microbes. This existing technology could literally change the world regarding the detection and identification of all harmful and helpful microbes.
For the speed readers and folks with low attention spans the major points Charles articulated very clearly to me (and described in more detail below) were that his technologies could very quickly, accurately, and inexpensively detect harmful microbes like Ebola and EV68. Obviously, with faster, more accurate, and less expensive detection methods lives could be saved in a much more broad and inclusive manner. Charles’s microbe detection and identification technology is far superior to current methods
Please… continue reading, share, and critique and be a part of this conversation.
What is Mass Spec. Proteomics?
Mainly it is two separate entities that when combine can perform wonders regarding microbe detection. Proteomics is computer software Charles Wick developed that uses complex matrices to detect and classify microbes. When paired with Mass Spectrometry -technology developed and made accessible by 40 years of research and development already in place in many major hospitals across the country – can literally tell us every microbe that is in the sample put through analysis, including those special microbes that distinguish one virus or bacteria or fungi from another. For example, if someone with a fever walked into a hospital that used Mass Spectrometer Proteomics to analyze a battery of simple samples (ex. Urine, saliva, perperation, gut matter, solid waste…) that analysis would determine if the person had a common cold, influenza, Ebola, or any other harmful microbe that has been previously identified and detected. The really cool part is that if something new is detected it would be classified as well. You would literally find things you weren’t looking for. This database could then be used in later detection scenarios. Currently, the Proteomic software is stuck in ECBC, MD and few people know about it. If I understood Charles correctly the software is currently being used to study different organisms in the vegetables soldiers are eating in Asia? Really!
What is Integrated Virus Detection Systems?
IVDS is a different technology that uses an extremely sensitive filtration system that can literally sift a sample and separate one virus from another. If a person were suspected of having hepatitis for example, IVDS would identify and detect all forms of hepatitis (A B and C) in the sample and any other virus in that single sample. Just like Mass Spec. Proteomics the detector would find things they weren’t looking for. Currently, there is a technology company working on the 3rd generation of the technology that is lunch pail size that could easily be placed or transported to every airport, hospital, or field setting. IVDS is compact, portable, and does not rely on advanced chemistry. IVDS can detect and identify the full spectrum of known, unknown, and mutated viruses from AIDS to hoof and mouth disease, to West Nile Virus and beyond.
Past and Possible Applications
In his book Identifying Microbes by Mass Spectrometry Proteomics Charles highlights how his technology developments not only identified H1N1 during its outbreak in 2009, but was able to identify multiple mutations of the virus by region based on the different protein characteristics detected and identified in different samples. Charles also stressed that the more infected people traveled, the more opportunity there would be for a single virus to mutate and change. The point here is that his technology developments not only detected what was commonly diagnosed as H1N1 but also detected and identified mutated and newly developing forms of H1N1. In the same way that we classify people in terms of race, religion, height, and sex Charles was and is also able to classify different forms of H1N1. The same process could be duplicated with Ebola and every harmful microbe detected and identified.
Charles’s technology developments were also paramount regarding the honey bee colony collapse disorder that almost crippled the bee industry in 2010. Charles’s work and research with honey bees saved the bee industry literally billions of dollars and helped to stop what could have been a major agricultural issue for the United States. Here is an article from the New York Times thatdiscusses much of that scenario. Also, this serves as another practical example that the technology works and is available to accomplish a large number of tasks.
What we all need to know!!!
The major facts most Americans need to understand regarding Mass Spec. Proteomics and IVDS is that both of these technologies are easy to run, very accurate, broad reaching, inexpensive and could be used to not only identify who has Ebola, but also any other virus, bacteria, fungi or microbe that may be contained in that single sample. You find out basically everything about the sample, not just what you are looking for. With a large enough data base and enough continued data analysis health care professionals and microbe detection personnel could detect how a specific virus like Ebola functions.
Let’s hypothetically discuss Ebola. If a potentially infected person were to provide samples over the course of the 21 day screening period, detection personnel would run a battery of samples during that 21 day screening period and discover in real time where Ebola is hiding during that 21 day incubation period. To take that a step further we would not have to guess if a person is sick with Ebola during that 21 day incubation period once a thorough analysis was completed. With enough sampling during that 21 day window of enough patients we could conceivably map when and where the virus hides in a person during that 21 day window and know for sure what bodily fluids carry the virus and when they are most contagious. Again, to sum those points up and make this clear, not only is it possible to use this existing technology to detect Ebola, but with enough sampling and analysis it is conceivable that we could know what specific samples (bodily fluids or others) health care professionals would need to draw and test while the virus lay dormant, pretty much eliminating the need to wait 21 days to see if the person is infected. With enough sampling and date collection and analysis, and neither would be difficult nor expensive to come by once the technology and software are in place, knowing if someone had Ebola would be as easy (possibly easier) and as inexpensive (maybe less) than testing for common STD’s.
The best part about Charles’ technologies is that once the hardware and software are in place, running samples and analysis is cheap, easy, and fast; in fact much faster than Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – the current popular standard by which we detect microbes and viruses. The issues with PCR are numerous. When you run a PCR test that test only comes back positive or negative for the specific sample you are testing for. Regarding Ebola, not only would the correct genetic material need to be sampled but the correct antibodies would also need to be tested for within the correct window. Oh yeah, and the tester has to make sure to not contaminate the sample. After, handling the sample, doing the test and waiting for the results the PCR sample would simply yield a positive or negative for that specific test. Let’s go back to the hepatitis example discussed earlier; using current detection standards, detectors would and only know if their PCR test would yield a positive or negative test for a specific form of hepatitis (A B or C). If your test yields a negative you have to go back to the drawing board and another PCR test. Using Charles’s developments single samples would provide the entire microbial make-up of the sample.
Other issues regarding PCR include the high cost of running multiple tests. Using Charles’s microbe detection and identification technology a tester would only need to find the right sample (skin, blood, urine, gut secreation, saliva, ground up bees) and the analysis will tell you every microbe in the sample or all samples. Not to mention the sample can be run and analyzed in a fraction of the time of the current popular PCR method and you don’t have to be a scientist to run the sample or the analysis.
In my talk with Charles last night he made the point that while some of his colleagues have been working for years to find a vaccine for Ebola in the same time he has developed 2 fail safe ways to detect Ebola and every single one of its microbial buddies. Why don’t people know this?
Here is another huge piece. These two technologies do not have to just be used to detect major illness like Ebola or harmful microbes. Mass Spec. Proteomics and IVDS could be used to detect the common cold and possible helpful microbes. Imagine how this could impact the health care system. No longer would we need to visit the doctor and play the guess work game. You could walk into the doctor’s office and give a battery of samples (blood, saliva, urine, skin, BM) and know exactly what microbes are in you… all of them… and it would not be expensive. Imagine a health care system with limited guess work, limited medication being pushed and handed out, limited missed diagnosis concerning microbial infections of all kinds. Wouldn’t that help reduced health care costs in this country? This technology is here. It has been used. It is accurate. It will help. Follow up and see for yourself. I alluded to this earlier, I am not a reporter, scientist, politician or person of any great influence; just a concerned citizen. Medical personnel especially public relation personnel need to be promoting and asking question about this technology. Please, share this post with as many people as possible. If we kick up enough tires we are bound to turn over the right one.