Blinded by the Light
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This submission won second place in the 2020 Images of Research competition. The competition celebrates undergraduate contributions to research at the University of Texas. The following caption accompanied the image submission: Rickettsia rickettsii is the bacteria responsible for the tick-borne disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever. This disease can become fatal if not treated within the first week, and there are currently no diagnostic tools to respond within that one-week time frame. Physicians primarily rely on patient history to prescribe the needed medication. Treatment should not be determined by how well a patient can advocate their story. We no longer need to look at this disease through an anecdotal lens. Instead, we can look at it through an orange filter. By shining blue light on our samples and viewing them through a filter, we can see our positive samples fluoresce. If the solution within the tube looks translucent, as seen on the right, there hasn’t been significant DNA amplification to suggest infection. And if the solution glows a bright neon yellow, as seen on the left, we can say the sample is infected. Using this new methodology, we can determine if a person needs a prescription within just hours by looking at the issue through a new lens.