Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Veryfast Biological Agent Detection

This is still in the research and testing phase - but wow - it's fast:

A new laser technique allows for instant detection of bioterrorism agents, permitting tests that previously were cumbersome or impossible, according to a report in the April 13 issue of the journal Science. In the Science paper, Texas A&M and Princeton researchers report on using lasers to detect anthrax in less than a tenth of a second.

"Our procedure can work for monitoring anthrax in the mail, but it can also scan the whole atmosphere," said Marlan Scully, the lead author of the paper. Currently, anthrax tests require that suspicious substances be cultured in a lab, a time-consuming process.

Although the Science paper focuses on anthrax, Scully said the same laser technique could be deployed in a wide range of applications, from national security to health. "There are a lot of other potential applications -- monitoring glucose in the blood of diabetics would be just one example," Scully said.
One of the difficulties of managing biological incidents - natural or intentional - is the time delay from exposure to the agent, to the onset of symptoms, to diagnosis. Reducing the amount of time it takes to detect biological agents could shorten that lag time, leading to more effective treatment and management.

In the meantime, local homeland security professionals should collaborate to ensure that they are ready for all biological threats. Many communities need to be better prepared for biological threats. (See these two posts.)

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