Garza points out the problem with this approach is that once people become sick they are likely to die, which can potentially lead to significant casualties in a large-scale attack.
"This experiment confirmed that a biological attack could be detected earlier using air sampling which means public health would have more time to respond."
Air sampling has been readily accepted for similar uses such as measuring for particulate matter, however using it to detect bacteria in biological terrorism was a new concept instituted after the 9/11 attacks. This type of sampling is now part of a sophisticated system used by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
However, in order for the system to work more efficiently in the real world, Garza believes the detection cycle, which currently takes between 12-36 hours, would need to produce results in a shorter time frame.
"The current process is labor-intensive and time-consuming. It takes a lot of manual labor and time to do the laboratory work," he said.
Since it usually takes at least a couple of days for a person to show symptoms from a biological attack, Garza emphasizes the importance of an improved detecting system that would give officials more time to investigate and ramp up a medical response plan to save lives.
"If we can detect a dangerous pathogen in the environment at an earlier stage, we can quickly start planning the response procedure for it like distributing antibiotics," Garza said. "The sooner we pick up clues, the sooner we can act and save more lives."
|Contact: Riya Anandwala|
Saint Louis University