NASA technology to be used to fight bioterror

New research from NASA indicates that technology designed to guard against Earthbound infections during space exploration could hold potential for counterterrorism methods.

Universal Detection Technology, based in Los Angeles, plans to use a non-immunological method for bacterial biothreat agent identification. This process is used currently by NASA when dealing with problems potentially arising from outer space, with or without involving craft after re-entry into Earth atmosphere.

UDT's technology utilizes dipicolinic acid, which is a molecule unique to bacterial spores, which is then combined with terbium ions.

When the combined terbium ion and dipicolinic acid is radiated, it creates a luminescent characteristic that allows for the non-immunological method of detecting bacterial spores.

This rapid detection, UDT says, will allow public health laboratories, in an emergency, to respond to threats quicker.

UDT's proposed detection system follows a Broad Agency Announcement from the Department of Homeland Security for research proposals aimed at the detection and containment of harmful bioagents, including anthrax.

The research request from the Homeland Security also sought research aimed at the recovery, extraction and preservation of the antigenic signature of bioagents.

The DHS' request follows a recent Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism report that cleanup and other economic costs from an anthrax attack could cost more than $1.8 trillion.