Engineers are looking into a nasty disease. We’ll look, too. Today, on Engineering Works!
Tuberculosis, or TB, is one of the nastiest diseases there is. If it’s not treated, eventually it destroys the inside of your lungs, and you drown in your own blood.
TB kills between two million and three million people a year, mostly in developing countries. Doctors can treat most TB effectively with antibiotics, but first you and your doctor need to know you have it. In the United States and other industrialized countries, diagnosing TB is no problem. In developing countries, it is.
Many developing countries are short of the kind of medical diagnostic equipment we take for granted.
This is where the engineers come in. Doctors have figured out that a detector originally designed to look for life on Mars works really well at diagnosing TB here on Earth. It’s called a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer, or GCMS. GCMSes are standard analytical equipment in chemical labs, but they’re big and heavy.
Because this GCMS was designed to ride to Mars in a space vehicle, it’s light and compact — about the size of a shoebox. This means that taking it from place to place in countries without many chemical or diagnostic labs is easy. And it gives doctors there a tool to diagnose TB, quickly and accurately.
A diagnostic tool called a clock is telling us that our time is up. We’ll see you next time.
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