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Faster Anthrax Detection Could Speed Bioterror Response and Save Millions in Decontamination Costs, MU Study Finds

March 12, 2014

Currently, the tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials require about 24-48 hours.  University of Missouri researchers, in partnership with a private company, have developed a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

Story By:  MU News Bureau

Shortly following the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to news outlets and government buildings killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to a 2012 report, the bioterrorism event cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters. Currently, first responders have tests that can provide a screen for dangerous materials in about 24-48 hours. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have worked with a private company to develop a new method for anthrax detection that can identify anthrax in only a few hours.

“Normally to identify whether an organism is present, you have to extract the material, culture it, and then pick colonies to examine that might turn out to be anthrax bacteria,” said George Stewart, a medical bacteriologist at MU’s Bond Life Sciences Center and chairman of the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and McKee Endowed Professor within the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. “Then you conduct chemical testing which takes some time—a minimum of 24 to 48 hours. Using this newly-identified method, we can reduce that time to about five hours.”  More…