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NIST seeks improved recovery of samples from biohazard events
Date:4/27/2011

It may not be as catchy a combination as "Miss Scarlet in the parlor with a revolver," but "polyester-rayon wipes in the field followed by saline-surfactant extraction and vortexing" is the most efficient solution to an important biological game of "Clue" deduced by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As reported in a recent paper*, the NIST team studied different methods for collecting, extracting and quantifying microbial spores from indoor surfaces to estimate parameters that should be considered in the development of a standard biological sampling protocol. A precise and reliable recovery system is critical to evaluating the success of cleanup efforts following an accidental biohazard contamination or bioterrorist attack (such as the Bacillus anthracis spore-laden letters sent to Congress and elsewhere in 2001).

Technique matters. The NIST team found that the optimal method in their experiments was about 10 times more effective at recovering spores than the worst method, and that recovery dramatically improved by simply adding a surfactant to the extraction solution.

"A comprehensive look at the impact of protocol variables affecting the performance of spore recoveryespecially when dealing with serious threats such as anthraxis an important national homeland security priority," says lead researcher Sandra Da Silva. "In this study, we used Bacillus anthracis (Sterne), a vaccine strain, as a surrogate for Bacillus anthracis (Ames), the causative agent of the anthrax disease, in order to learn how to improve the low efficiency of current protocols."

Possible explanations for the poor results, Da Silva says, include using wipes made from materials that do not attract bacteria well or won't let go of collected bacteria, extraction liquids that fail to completely loosen spores from the wipes and get them into solution, or inadequate dissociation methods that leave spores cli
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Contact: Michael E. Newman
michael.newman@nist.gov
301-975-3025
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert  

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