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By simply not beaming that part? If you're going to take people apart to the atomic level (presumably), then can you not just be selective and not transport certain germs?

Potentially, you could cure anything from cancer to colds, right?

3 Answers 3

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Yes, via the magic technology of Biofilters:

Biofilters were uniformly used on all Federation transporters by the 24th century. These filters functioned to decontaminate transported objects and prevent harmful substances, pathogens, and even certain forms of radiation (including theta radiation), from contaminating the rest of the ship. This process replaced earlier systems that required the subject to be fully rematerialized on the transport platform before applying an energy-based process to topically decontaminate the transportee. (VOY: "Macrocosm", "Night", TOS: "The Naked Time")

Though the biofilters performed a general contaminant removal with each transport, they were far from perfect; previously-unknown infections or viruses occasionally failed to register, requiring the filters to be recalibrated to recognize the new threat. As such, biofilters were incapable of filtering out certain types of substances and pathogens, most notably psychic energy.

Although most infections could be more easily cured with a more standard procedure (not sure what though, but I'm sure some sort of space-vaccine/anti-biotic is in use).

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  • Eeew gross, wouldn't that mean that there'd be a giant cloud of pathogens and radiation (how would that even work?) hanging around whenever someone teleports? I'd hate to be standing near Riker when he gets beamed up after a month of R&R.
    – Tacroy
    Apr 4, 2012 at 23:49
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    And suddenly we understand Barclay's aversion to transporters.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 5, 2012 at 8:51
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There is some notion of this in TNG-era: The transporters have biofilters. These analyze the matter stream for known pathogens and filter out those that they can. Presumably anything that can't be filtered out is left for doctors. I imagine this is a good in-universe explanation for why the away team doesn't have to stop by sickbay for inoculations in every episode.

In Babel (DS9) the filters couldn't remove the virus. In Realm of Fear(TNG) they try to program the biofilters to remove a new pathogen. In Unnatural Selection (TNG) they program the biofilters to reverse changes to Pulaski's DNA.

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    The transporters were also used in Rascals to restore the DNA of Picard, Guinan, Keiko and Ro.
    – Xantec
    Apr 4, 2012 at 15:06
  • @Xantec: ooh, that was a bad episode... Apr 4, 2012 at 15:12
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    One note on Unnatural Selection and (I think) Rascals: Their original DNA was needed for the DNA restoration to work. The bio-filters couldn't do it on their own.
    – Izkata
    Apr 4, 2012 at 22:52
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At an atomic scale, how do you recognize what's a virus and what's a white blood cell? Depending on how you do the dematerializing, the atoms of each of them might be spread out across the stream. It would be like trying to remove the zs of a network connection when all you can see are the bits and you don't know how the data is encoded. Maybe it's possible but I don't think you'll have many volunteers.

Plus, whatever you pull out of someone's body has to go somewhere; you can't leave it sitting in the buffer. I don't think Starfleet is keen on leaving diseases floating through space.

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  • There's no point of recognizing virus if you dematerialize only human body leaving germs behind..
    – user931
    Apr 4, 2012 at 14:54

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