Boston to test bioterrorism sensors in subways

Boston will soon test new bioterrorism sensors in its subways, according to U.S. officials.

The "Detect-to-Protect" biodetection project will assess sensors designed to detect biological agents and subsequently alert the authorities, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate, UPI reports.

The devices use "trigger" and "confirmer" sensors to confirm the release of biological agents within minutes. The sensors will be tested on their ability to sense a small amount of an innocuous killed bacterium that will be released in subway stations in the Boston area.

Small quantities of killed Bacillus subtilis will b released into closed subway tunnels, according to UPI.

Bacillus subtilis is a common, food-grade bacterium and is considered nontoxic to humans, animals and plants even when living, scientists said.

"While there is no known threat of a biological attack on subway systems in the United States, the S&T testing will help determine whether the new sensors can quickly detect biological agents in order to trigger a public safety response as quickly as possible," Anne Hultgren, the manager of the project, said, UPI reports.

Testing will be carried out periodically for the next six months and will be monitored by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority as well as by state and local public health officials.