Tracking — and tackling — infectious diseases with new technologies
Conquering deadly infectious diseases like polio and smallpox were among the greatest medical triumphs of the 20th century. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the battle against infectious diseases is far from over. In the 21st century, we will use new technologies to take on humanity’s oldest foes.
Long before COVID-19, Scripps Research has led the charge in reducing the burden of infectious disease worldwide. Our scientists are pioneers in vaccine design, genomic surveillance and drug repurposing. In recent years, epidemiologists, data scientists and digital medicine experts have added to the depth and breadth of our expertise by conducting pathbreaking research that uses wearable devices to identify viral infection.
Among this research, a team at the Scripps Research Translational Institute studied two years of data for nearly 120,000 Fitbit users in the U.S., finding that wearable data, including changes in resting heart rate and sleep, could help predict where influenza-like illness was occurring. These exciting results have sparked similar research efforts around the world, and laid the foundation for a Digital Trials Center study focused on COVID-19 that has garnered enormous attention.
The DETECT (Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment) study has engaged over 37,000 individuals who are sharing sensor data, self-reported symptoms, diagnoses and electronic health records with the aim of improving our ability to identify and track individual and population-level viral illness, including COVID-19. Results from this initial cohort have been encouraging, suggesting that wearable devices and mobile apps can be effective tools for monitoring and controlling the spread of infectious disease.