ST. LOUIS Air and surface sampling techniques currently used by the US government are effective in fighting bioterrorism and potentially saving lives, a Saint Louis University researcher finds.
Results published in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism by Alexander Garza, M.D., MPH, former chief medical officer at the Department of Homeland Security and a team of researchers from Los Alamos National Lab reviewed the data from a series of experiments simulating a bioterrorism attack against the Pentagon. Garza is now the associate dean for public health practice and associate professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice.
In 2005 and 2009, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) in order to simulate a deliberate attack, staged the release of a harmless bacteria that is biological similar to Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes the disease anthrax. They then evaluated the local response procedures to such an attack. In conjunction with this exercise, the Department of Homeland Security ran its own experiments to test the efficacy of an air and surface sampling system known as BioWatch in detecting these biological agents in the environment.
In the experiments, multiple kilograms of benign material were released, which included a small portion of the anthrax simulant. The team collected samples of the air through several portable sampling units and had them analyzed at specialized laboratories.
"We were able to detect the biological organisms released several kilometers from where the agent was originally released," Garza said. "We were not entirely surprised by the results. Since all of the modeling that had been done to date showed that air samplers should be able to detect these types of attack, what was missing was empirical evidence showing that these systems would work in real world conditions. We now have that evidence."
"The traditional way to
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