Native air sampling could be used to fight bioterror

A pilot project carried out in New  York City in 2006-07 has demonstrated that a "native air sampling" strategy could be used in a plan to respond to the release of an aerosolized bioweapon.

The project, known as the NYC Native Air Sampling Pilot Project, was led by Joel Ackelsberg, a medical epidemiologist at the Bureau of Communicable Diseases with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and his colleagues. The report was published in the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, CIDRAP News reports.

The authors reported that samples from the NAS filters from the ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems in commercial properties could help to quantify the public threat after the initial detection of an agent through dedicated air sampling. DAS, which is the first-line tool for detecting the release of weaponized agents, is accomplished through initiatives like the federal BioWatch program.

The authors write that NAS could help determine the direction and size of a pathogen plume and would be much more efficient than environmental surface sampling and testing.

"(The method) represents an untapped, scientifically sound, efficient, widely distributed, and comparably inexpensive resource for post event environmental sampling," the authors wrote, according to CIDRAP News.

The pilot program allowed the researchers to determine nominal building requirements for NAS locations, design data collection and other tools to expedite building selection and evaluation, develop procedures to evaluate and identify candidate NAS buildings, and write sample playbooks for emergency responders.