This teen just found a possibly life-saving new way to diagnose deadly diseases.

She won the Google Science Fair, but the real winner is humanity.

Why is Olivia Hallisey celebrating? Because she just kicked butt at the Google Science Fair and took home gold.

The Connecticut high school student recently won the grand prize in the 16-18 category at the 2015 Google Science Fair. Her project — developing a quick, easy, and accurate test for Ebola — won the judges' hearts for its potential to make a big change in the world.


Woo! Congrats! GIF from Google Science Fair.

Olivia's project stemmed from the devastating Ebola outbreak that spread across parts of West Africa.

As is the case with many diseases, the earlier we're able to diagnose Ebola, the better the patients' chances are for recovery and for reducing the risk of further spreading the disease.

Part of what makes Ebola particularly devastating is that early diagnosis is especially difficult because the early symptoms aren't particularly unique. Here's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say:

"Diagnosing Ebola in a person who has been infected for only a few days is difficult because the early symptoms, such as fever, are nonspecific to Ebola infection and often are seen in patients with more common diseases, such as malaria and typhoid fever. ... Ebola virus is detected in blood only after onset of symptoms ... It may take up to three days after symptoms start for the virus to reach detectable levels."

GIF from Google Science Fair 2015.

And according to Olivia, the problem with current Ebola testing is that the tests require special tools and take half a day to produce a diagnosis:

"Current methods of Ebola detection utilize enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay ("ELISA") detection kits which cost approximately $1.00 each, require complex instrumentation, trained medical professionals to administer, and up to 12 hours from testing to diagnosis."

But what if there were a way to reduce the complexity of the ELISA test for Ebola? That could save lives.

Currently, Ebola tests are really complicated, involving vials and blood samples and other fancy lab equipment, but they also require 12 hours of temperature regulation that can really only be achieved in a lab setting.

Olivia took the same components, used silk fibers to stabilize them, and put the whole test and all its laboratory components on a piece of card stock.

Here's what her innovation looks like in action:

Olivia's card-stock test seen here against a black background. GIF from Olivia Hallisey.

Soon, testing for Ebola could be as simple as just adding water.

In Olivia's version of the test, chemicals used to detect the Ebola protein-bound antibodies are placed at three corners of the paper with anti-Ebola antibodies in the center.

Adding drops of water to the end of each arm of the card stock test moves the chemicals toward the center of the paper. Once the chemicals, the serum sample (blood) from the person being tested, and the water combine, the color in the center changes to give either a positive or negative reading.

In this case, a positive reading is when the test goes from blue to yellow (as you see in the GIF above).

The real breakthrough here, though, is that Olivia's innovation has made it possible for people to test for Ebola in their own homes.

This could eventually lead to easier, cheaper, faster tests for other diseases.

Given that ELISA tests can be used to detect a variety of antibodies, it's possible that Olivia's project could pave the way for at-home testing for HIV, Lyme disease, celiac disease, or even food allergies.

So cool!

GIF from Google Science Fair 2015.

Olivia was awarded a $50,000 scholarship and some much-deserved praise.

She told CNBC she plans on attending college and working for a global health organization: "I want to look everywhere, go anywhere to help people, I'm really excited about the future."

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy took to Twitter to congratulate the young scientist.


Olivia and the other finalists had the chance to meet another young science enthusiast — clock-making teen Ahmed Mohamed.


While the tests aren't being mass produced and distributed just yet, her work sets out an important proof of concept.

Being able to cut the time it takes to get results from 12 hours to just 30 minutes is nothing to scoff at, especially when the results come with similar accuracy to the standard lab test. But there's work to do before it goes from a creative project to a true weapon in the fight against infectious disease.

Interested in hearing Olivia describe her project? Check out her video below.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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