New technology could quickly detect bioterror attacks

Technology created in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory could help authorities quickly detect bioterrorism attacks, help doctors diagnose diseases and help regulators discover diseases in products, according to an e! Science News release.

The technology is called the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array and it could help detect in a 24 hour-span all viruses and bacteria if they have  been sequenced and included among the array's estimated 388,000 probes. The release states that the current version of the array can quickly detect over 2,000 viruses and 900 bacteria.

"The ability to detect the major bacterial and viral components of any sample can be used in countless different ways," Tom Slezak, LLNL's associate program leader for Informatics, said, according to e! Science News. "This is important because it fills a cost-performance gap that is relevant to many missions: biodefense, public health and product safety.

"The LLMDA allows us to not only identify the biological pathogens on a priority screening list, but also any other already-sequenced bacteria or virus in a sample that you might not have been expecting to find, including possible novel or emerging pathogens."

A recent Journal of Virology article states that Livermore researchers collaborating with another scientist said the detection array confirmed the "presence of an apparently benign pig virus in a vaccine," the report states.

It was unexpectedly found in a vaccine used to prevent diarrhea in babies.

"One result of this research is that it demonstrates how modern technologies could change and drastically improve product safety," Slezak said, according to e! Science News.

The detection array will be evaluated at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center in Frederick, Md., the report states.