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DARPA has a crappy new idea to help soldiers

Aaron Mehta

Some might argue that DARPA has flushed plenty of cash down the toilet over the years, but the agency’s newest project hopefully won’t stink.

On Tuesday, DARPA pushed out an announcement of a new program known as ADAPTER (Advanced Acclimation and Protection Tool for Environmental Readiness), which aims to create a biological human “travel adaptor” to mitigate the worst effects of traveling abroad: number one, a lack of sleep caused by time change, and number two, the infamous traveler’s diarrhea.

The agency wants to develop a “a transient, non-genetic means of extending and enhancing war fighter readiness,” which will both quickly acclimate the sleep cycle to new time zones and eliminate the bacteria behind diarrhea.

“The goal of the ADAPTER program is to produce the therapies within the body itself. ADAPTER will manage a war fighter’s circadian rhythm, halving the time to reestablish normal sleep after a disruption such as jet lag or shift lag,” Paul Sheehan, the program manager, said in a agency announcement.

“It will also provide safe food and water by eliminating in vivo the top five bacterial sources of traveler’s diarrhea. Both will enhance the health and mobility of warfighters.”

It may seem a laughing matter, but the Pentagon can’t afford to be loose with the stomach health of its forces.

A study of 15,459 individuals who served in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003-2004 found that majorities (76.8 percent in Iraq and 54.4 percent in Afghanistan) suffered diarrhea while abroad, with 40 percent of those cases requiring medical attention.

A 2005 study, meanwhile, looked at 4,348 members of the military deployed to the same two countries, and found that for 45 percent of those afflicted with diarrhea, job performance decreased for three days.

Additionally, diarrhea contributed to 62 percent of subjects seeking medical care at least once. Thirty-one percent required intravenous rehydration. And for 17 percent of subjects, “diarrhea resulted in confinement to bed for a median of 2 days, causing an estimated 3.7 days of complete work loss per 100 person-months.”

Details of the ADAPTER program are fluid, pending a release on beta.SAM.gov, but the agency has experience with runs of biological programs.

 

 


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