Sandia’s new anthrax detector lowers risk to first responders, lab testers

Sandia National Laboratories, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has a new self-contained, credit-card-sized device on the market, which can both detect the bacteria that cause anthrax and reduce the risk of infection to first responders and laboratory testers.

The bacterium that causes anthrax occurs naturally in two forms -- vegetative and spore -- and, according to Melissa Finley, a principal member of Sandia’s technical staff and licensed veterinarian, those spores can live a very long time.

“The spores are highly resistant,” she said.

That resistance creates a great personal health risk to lab testers and first responders.

The device, named BaDx (Bacillus anthracis Diagnostics), works in places with no power, refrigerated storage or laboratory equipment. It requires minimal to no training and makes anthrax testing safer, easier, faster and cheaper, Finley said.

Because the user is not required to come in physical contact with the materials being tested, such as soil, plants or animals, the device reduces the risk of infection and is also very useful to countries with less sophisticated laboratory equipment or procedures.

“Some countries, we noticed, don’t have strict regulations for bio security: they would save pathogens, and that creates the risk of accidental or intentional release,” Finley said. “We characterized this problem and worked with our science group to leverage the gold standard. Our device provides a specific diagnostic tool, while keeping testers safe.”

In February, Sandia’s device won the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s 2015 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. The award is the top recognition for technology transfer in the federal government system.

“It’s a real stamp of approval,” company spokesperson Nancy Salem said.

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Sandia National Laboratories

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