The Prometheus program seeks to discover a minimal set of biological signals in a person recently infected with disease that would indicate within 24 hours of exposure to the pathogen whether that individual will become contagious. Such a prognosis would enable early treatment or the initiation of other mitigating steps before the disease can be transmitted to others.
Prometheus will focus on acute respiratory infections as a proof of concept. Program researchers will set out to develop a fundamental understanding of the biological responses occurring in a recently infected person (a "host"), examining the molecular features of the host that are predictive of disease-spreading potential.
Using retrospective and prospective data from volunteers who live in close communities (e.g., families, college dorms), researchers will aim to identify biomarkers and develop advanced analytics to predict which individuals will become contagious and whether or not they will show symptoms. Specifically, Prometheus will characterize a host's genetic and molecular-level immune responses at multiple time points during the infection process. These “biomarkers”—measurable indicators of the severity or presence of some disease state—might help researchers predict the onset of contagiousness earlier than is currently possible using conventional medical technology.
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