Audrey Odom John, MD, PhD, is on a mission. John, associate professor of pediatrics and of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is fighting the spread of infectious diseases like malaria with better, faster, more nimble diagnostic tools.

Malaria kills 445,000 people a year, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa, a rural, underdeveloped area where better diagnostic tools are needed most.

In her lab, she is developing a portable and inexpensive device that works similarly to how a Breathalyzer detects the presence of alcohol. Her diagnostic tool identifies the chemicals in human breath that indicate the presence of malaria.

She also is fighting the overuse of antibiotics. By diagnosing diseases earlier and more accurately, the over-prescription of antibiotics can be reduced, helping to staunch the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections such as MRSA.

Watch and listen as Odom John explains the gravity of the problem and how she is battling it by using an existing technology in a completely new way:

Read more about Odom’s research.