Researchers develop faster, cheaper bioterrorism detection method

Scientists with the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio recently developed a faster and more economical method for screening suitable tests for bioterrorism threats and to speed up the application of countermeasures.

The new process screens for molecular magnets called affinity reagents that hold onto targets such as bacteria, viruses and toxins. The new screening method will allow for countermeasures to be chosen and used much faster than the current method, reports.

"Using crude extracts from E. coli, the workhorse bacterium of the biotechnology laboratory, the new route bypasses the need for purification and complex equipment, enabling screening to be performed in under an hour," Andrew Hayhurst, a virologist with TBRI, said, according to

Hayhurst said that reagent screening currently takes weeks or months and requires sophisticated costly equipment for the purification and analysis of reagents. Using Hayhurst's stop-gap methods for testing, his team was able to create a test for Ebola virus Zaire in a matter of days.

"Being able to respond quickly to known biological threats will better prepare us for combating emerging and engineered threats of the future," Hayhurst said, according to "However, the great thing about this test pipeline is that it can be applied to almost any target of interest, including markers of diseases like cancer."

TBRI is currently in the application stage for a patent on the process, reports.