Can Quantum Mechanics Be Used to Fight Disease?

Scientists at two universities claim that it can help contain a flu’s spread. Will mass vaccinations some day be a thing of the past?

man with flu

A new study claims that the spread
of the flu can be contained without mass vaccinations
. The
method? The application of quantum mechanics to epidemiology theory.


Scientists at Michigan State University
and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted the novel project,
which argues that it is possible to significantly shorten the life
span of a disease outbreak through selective inoculations.

Instead of mass vaccinations, the joint
American-Israeli team claims that the administration of vaccines to
different people in different time periods can keep an outbreak of
the flu–or another disease–under control.

Rather than drawing from conventional
epidemiology, the mathematics model for this theory is instead drawn
from quantum mechanics. Two of the three scientists involved in the
study are physicists.

According to Baruch
of the Hebrew University, the study will help combat
diseases in situations where vaccines are in short supply:

Consider an unfortunate situation
when an infectious disease has spread over a population, and a
certain portion of the population is sick. Most of the infected
individuals recover from the disease and develop immunity to it. On
the other hand, the infected individuals can spread the disease in
the population through contacts with susceptible individuals.

To reduce the infection spread,
one can vaccinate all possible susceptible individuals. If they are
all willing to be vaccinated and there is enough vaccine for
everybody, the vaccination campaign will eradicate the disease with
certainty. Very often, however, a large portion of susceptible
individuals refuse to be vaccinated. In addition, a vaccine can be in
short supply, expensive to produce, or difficult to store.

Instead, the study suggests selective
inoculations in order to drastically curtail the natural lifespan of
a disease outbreak.


While physics has a long
of being used in medical studies, the Michigan-Jerusalem
study is notable for being one of the first applications of quantum
mechanics to conventional medicine.

[Image via Flickr user

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