Standard laboratory tests require hours or even days to determine if an illness is caused by bacterial, fungal or viral origins. Now, an Israeli research team has discovered a way to reduce the wait time to mere minutes, helping diagnose illness faster and stop pandemics in their tracks.

Israeli-based Azure PCR’s diagnostic innovation is unique because it requires no specialized medical training to use or interpret and, unlike current lab technologies, can provide near-instant results.

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CEO Aron Cohen pointed out that the faster results can help save lives. “This is really important in terms of drug-resistant diseases,” Cohen said, pointing out that had the Azure PCR diagnostic tool been available in 1990, Muppet’s founder Jim Henson, who died from a bacterial infection, could have been diagnosed right away and “he might still be alive today.”

The technology also can help track pandemics sooner by providing a better way to track diseases as they spread.

“With major global pandemics such as SARS and swine flu, we saw a six to 18-month lag in diseases that start in developing nations until spreading to the West, so being able to track these in real time can make prevention through vaccination and other methods possible,” Cohen explained.

He added that being able to focus on prevention, not infection, will ultimately reduce health costs. “If we know there is a disease spreading from a town and can map its distribution patterns, targeted vaccination can prevent it from spreading,” he said. “Prevention is always better than cure.”

Currently, Azure PCR is testing its new technology as part of a worldwide child health study that is helping to better diagnose and advance treatment options for children with severe pneumonia.

Ultimately, however, Cohen envisions that his cheap and easy-to-use test will be widely available, helping to make diagnostics available without a lab.

“We want to be a company that will increase access to molecular diagnostics to improve human health,” Cohen said. “We want to take it out of the lab and put it in the hands of users.”

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