ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. A credit-card-sized anthrax detection cartridge developed at Sandia National Laboratories and recently licensed to a small business makes testing safer, easier, faster and cheaper.
Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is commonly found in soils all over the world and can cause serious, and often fatal, illness in both humans and animals. The bacteria can survive in harsh conditions for decades. In humans, exposure to B. anthracis may occur through skin contact, inhalation of spores or eating contaminated meat.
Melissa Finley's research in Sandia's International Biological Threat Reduction Program inspired the detector, which currently is named BaDx (Bacillus anthracisDiagnostic). Finley works with veterinary labs in less-developed countries, helping them improve safety, security and efficiency at diagnosing infectious diseases.
Making labs efficient, safer and more secure
"Working with dangerous samples like B. anthracis spores places laboratory staff at risk. Concentrating many positive test samples in a lab could also tempt someone to steal positive anthrax samples for nefarious uses," Finley said.
Currently, samples must be propagated in a laboratory that uses specialized tools requiring a consistent power supply not always available in the developing world, Finley said.
But another big barrier is cost.
"Farmers in many developing countries don't make a lot of money, so they don't pay for diagnostic testing often. When they do, they can't afford to pay a lot for it," said Finley.
The most common diagnostic test for anthrax costs around $30, which is out of the reach of many farmers, perhaps discouraging them from testing animals they suspect as infected, Finley said. The new device, which is more like a pocket-sized laboratory, could cost around $5-7 and does not require specialized tools to use.
The consequences of not
|Contact: Stephanie Holinka|
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories