Texas researchers develop faster biodetection method

Researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute recently developed a faster and less expensive method to detect bioterrorism threats, including the presence of botulinum neurotoxins.

Screening for the most dangerous biological agents, such as botulinum and the Ebola virus, currently requires sophisticated and expensive equipment to purify and analyze affinity reagents. When hundreds of reagents require analysis, the process can take weeks or months, IANS reports.

"We need an inexpensive route to screen libraries of affinity reagents," Andrew Hayhurst, the leader of the research, said, according to IANS. "It had to be simple and self-contained as we eventually needed it to work in the space-suit lab or hot zone."

Hayhurst's team used extracts from E. coli to develop a stop-gap test for any biological threat in a matter of days.

"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," Hayhurst said, according to IANS.

Once the stop-gap test is created, the screening step for the pathogen can be completed in approximately one hour.

Hayhurst's team used llama antibodies as the affinity reagents to botulinum neurotoxins. The team then used the system to create a stop-gap test for Ebola.

The next goal for Hayhurst's system is to speed up the process to work over the course of a single day, IANS reports.