Daily Israel Report

Can Quantum Mechanics Conquer the Common Cold?

Move over, physicians. Three Hebrew U. and US physicists may have the solution to the flu: Selective inoculation based on quantum mechanics theory.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 1/3/2011, 2:46 PM / Last Update: 1/3/2011, 3:47 PM

Flash 90

Three physicists, one from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and two the University of Michigan, may have the solution to the common cold: Selective inoculation based on quantum mechanics theory.

The new and unconventional theory was announced by Hebrew University on Monday, when Israeli media reported that hospitals are overcrowded as the winter flu spreads. At least one case of swine flu has been reported this year.

Hebrew University’s Prof. Baruch Meerson explained, “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," he continued, "we 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 refuses to be vaccinated. In addition, a vaccine can be in short supply, expensive to produce, or difficult to store.”

Prof. Meerson, along with Michigan Profs. Mark Dykman and Dr. Michael Khasin, who earned his doctorate at Hebrew U., developed a strategy whereby a flu vaccine is delivered to the most susceptible populations, such as children in a class with a high percentage of pupils suffering from the flu.

Using a mathematical model, their theory calls for intensive vaccinations over a short period of time to match the “ups and downs” of waves that occur in the natural spread of infectious disease.

Meerson and his colleagues have yet to model their periodic vaccination scheme using real-world data, but they think that their calculations show that vaccinating just a few percent of the population could reduce the time it takes to eradicate a disease from, say, five months, to between three and four.