Subjects: Public health
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a new tool that could help law enforcement authorities detect bioterrorism attacks, doctors in need of a rapid diagnostic tool for infectious diseases, and regulatory agencies responsible for food safety.
The device, blandly named the Microbial Detection Array, will be able to identify 2,000 viruses and 900 bacteria within 24 hours, according to officials at the lab.
“The ability to detect the major bacterial and viral components of any sample can be used in countless ways,” Tom Slezak, an associate program leader for Informatics at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory told BurrillReport. “This is important because it fills a cost-performance gap that is relevant to many missions: biodefense, public health and product safety.”
If the cost of the array can be reduced, it could become a helpful tool for public health diagnostics, Slezak added. The array has the huge advantage of being able to detect a far wider range of viral and bacterial pathogens than the best available technology. That would be multiplex polymerase chain reaction or PCR, which is able to detect 50 organisms at one time.
The same benefits would apply to biodefense, where current systems are similarly designed to detect a much smaller set of high-risk pathogens. Not surprisingly, the US Department of Homeland Security is testing the array for its own use.
And there’s more: the Livermore group is now testing a new array that has probes covering 5,700 viruses and several thousand bacteria.