UMD researchers recieves IARPA support to study testing methods for influenza

Dr. Donald Milton is leading a research team that is studying biological markers in relation to influenza. | Courtesy of the University of Md.
The School of Public Health out of the University of Maryland (UMD) received a $5 million grant from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) this month to support non-invasive tests related to influenza.

The research is centered on the collection of samples from an individual that can include skin, hair and exhaled air to determine if an individual could have been working with influenza. Leading the research team is Donald Milton, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UMD.

“Everything you have been exposed to since conception is your exposome: everything you have eaten, drank, breathed, touched, every ray of sunlight that struck your skin is part of your exposome,” Milton said. “While we cannot directly measure or test the exposome, we can find signatures left by the exposures that lab workers may have had, which could enable us to detect influenza threats.”

Through previous research, Milton has found that influenza virus samples can be found and identified from the exhalation of an influenza patient. For this research, the team would be developing methodologies and technologies that would be able to detect antibodies and other proteins to determine an individual's exposure history.

For intelligence purposes, these potential methods could be used to determine if a researcher is suspected of developing a biological threat based on a pathogen such as the influenza virus.