Sandia develops pocket-sized anthrax detector

A credit-card sized anthrax detector developed by Sandia National Laboratories was recently licensed to a small business and may make anthrax testing faster, easier, safer and cheaper.

Melissa Finley, a scientist with Sandia's International Biological Threat Reduction Program, helped to develop Bacillus anthracis Diagnostic, or BaDx for short. Bacillus anthracis is the bacteria that causes anthrax. It can be found in soils throughout the world and can cause serious disease in humans and animals, Phys.org reports.

Finley said a major barrier to testing for anthrax in farms has been cost, which may keep farmers from testing animals they suspect to be infected.

"Farmers in many developing countries don't make a lot of money, so they don't pay for diagnostic testing often," Finley said, according to Phys.org. "When they do, they can't afford to pay a lot for it."

The most common diagnostic test for anthrax is around $30, out of the reach of most farmers. The new device would cost approximately $5 to $7 and does not require specialized tools to use.

Sandia licensed BaDx to Aquila, a New Mexico small business specializing in the design and manufacture of services and technologies for international safeguards and nuclear security.

"We see a lot of potential for government customers and nongovernmental organizations as well as commercial markets," Markku Koskelo, the chief scientist for Aquila, said, according to Phys.org.

The team is looking to use the basic device design to test for other disease-carrying bacteria as well, such as group A streptococcus and Salmonella, Phys.org reports.