High-tech stickers put to the test in Antarctica – Australian Antarctic Program (News 2022)

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A device smaller than a credit card that can monitor the human body’s vital signs is currently being tested by the Australian Antarctic Expeditionaries in a groundbreaking clinical trial.

The BioSticker™ is a wearable, medical-grade sensor designed to track temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, cough rate, and activity.

Discreet single-use devices are worn on the upper chest and can operate for up to 30 days while wirelessly transmitting real-time data.

Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) chief medical officer Dr Jeff Ayton said the first step in research is to understand if the technology is practical and comfortable for expeditionaries to use.

“The BioSticker™ is almost imperceptible and easy to wear, but we need to test these devices in pre-departure quarantine and in the field to make sure they work for expeditionaries, who face harsh conditions in the extreme environment. Antarctica,” said Dr Ayton.

“Ultimately, the reason we’re doing this is to find out if the BioSticker™ is acceptable and has utility in providing early signals of infectious COVID-19 or other infection risks, in dispatchers prior to their departure for Antarctica as well as on ships, planes and at stations,” said Dr Ayton.

The trial is voluntary and will run for the duration of the Antarctic summer season, augmenting existing COVID-19 checks, 14-day pre-departure quarantine and PCR testing.

Participant data is encrypted and anonymized according to approved research protocols to protect confidentiality, with trial results expected in the second half of 2022.

AAD Director Kim Ellis praised the efforts of the Polar Medicine Unit and operational teams to keep Australia’s Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic stations COVID-free.

“The pandemic continues to pose challenges to Australia’s Antarctic programme, but ingenuity thrives under pressure,” Mr Ellis said.

“That means we’re looking at new technologies and new ideas that we might not otherwise have considered.”

“If this research proves successful, it could increase the level of protection we can provide to those who operate our stations and undertake scientific work.”

The trial is being undertaken with the support of research partners at University of California-San FranciscoUC Space Health – Associate Professor Aenor Sawyer, BioIntelliSense Inc., AlertWatch Inc.. and University of Tasmania – Public Health – Associate Professor Nicola Stephens through the Center for Antarctic, Remote and Maritime Medicine.

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