Research Week Speaker Q&A: Chris Woods

Chris Woods, MD Professor of Medicine Chris Woods, MD
Professor of Medicine

In 1-3 sentences, please describe your research interests for a general audience.

Since my early days as an epidemiologist at CDC, I have been interested in how we diagnose infectious diseases and when we choose to do so. Our multidisciplinary team of clinical scientists, microbiologists, computational biologists, and engineers has leveraged the host response to infections and the genomic and data science to develop molecular “signatures” to better diagnose infections and predict disease severity. We can even detect infection two days before symptoms are manifest.
Why is this research important?

I believe in the value of precision medicine for infectious diseases—the provision of the right drug, to the right patient, at the right time.  We are in the midst of a pandemic of emerging antibacterial resistance largely due to the inappropriate use of antibacterial therapy. Our signatures that can accurately assign a probability to whether a patient has a bacterial or viral infection (or both) can revolutionize the clinical approach to treatment and reduce the untoward effects of antibiotic overuse.
What excites you most about the future of this research?

We are rapidly moving toward bringing infectious disease diagnosis to the patient.  Imagine a future when your wearable detects changes in your sleep pattern or heart rate variability during respiratory season.  You feel well, but perform a simple 5 minute test that demonstrates recent exposure to a new influenza virus that is being transmitted in your area.  You receive an appropriate antiviral and some supportive care via drone later that day and don’t ever shed or expose others at work or school.  We aren’t far from this.