"Because B. anthracis forms spores when exposed to oxygen, slaughtering or opening the carcass of an infected animal places many people at risk," Finley said.
Complex and sensitive, but simple to operate
The device requires no battery or electric power to operate. It's hardy against wide temperature variation and can detect very small numbers of B. anthracis spores. That could make it especially useful in parts of the world where anthrax is prevalent, but refrigeration and lab facilities are lacking.
The device can be used by a trained technician in the field. The technician would put a sample swab into the amplification chamber, which contains selective growth media. The device then uses a lateral flow assay, similar to a common pregnancy test, to detect the B. anthracis. Magnetically operated valves allow the sample to advance from stage to stage to complete the testing process. A colored line will appear on the device several hours later, if the test is positive for the bacteria.
After testing, the technician can initiate a chemical process that sterilizes the device, which avoids the risk of positive samples accumulating and falling into the wrong hands. In addition to the sterilization process, the device is sealed closed, making extraction of live bacteria difficult.
"The device amplifies the B. anthracis so it can detect as few as 100 spores instead of the typical 1-10 million required for detection," says device engineer Jason Harper.
Harper and engineer Thayne Edwards developed the microfluidics platform with the patent pending magnetic valves that move the sample through the testing process.
Lead bioscientist Bryan Carson, with technologists Jackie Murton and Bryce Ricken, developed the selective media, and worked on building and testing the device, as well as helping to develop the deco
|Contact: Stephanie Holinka|
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories