New bacteria developed to simulate pathogens in sensor testing

Test and evaluation researchers at the Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's biosciences division are developing a new method of determining whether sensors designed to detect weaponized pathogens will word as expected.

The center is developing stimulant strains of non-pathogenic Bacillus thuringiensis that contain unique markers that allow the researchers to monitor how actual spores would respond or persist in the environment, according to .

The T&E community has been using one simulant since the 1940s. Though helpful, the number of tests that can be carried out on it remains limited, and areas where it has been used for decades, like the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, have become saturated.

"There is a lot of that stuff already out there," Henry Gibbons of the Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's biosciences division said, reports.

Bacillus thuringiensis has the genetic diversity to allow for the release of multiple strains, which should save time and money. The diversity needed can be enhanced through the placement of the genetic markers. The markers will also distinguish it from the strains commonly used by farmers to control gypsy moths.

"Instead of releasing one thing at a time, we want to be able to release four or five things," Gibbons said, reports.

Gibbons expects the new technology to be applied to the Department of Homeland Security's BioWatch program, as well as the U.S. Army's Next Generation Diagnostics System.