Magazine article National Defense

New Way to Test Airborne Pathogen Sensors Slated for BioWatch Program

Magazine article National Defense

New Way to Test Airborne Pathogen Sensors Slated for BioWatch Program

Article excerpt

* The test and evaluation community for the past 70 years has used one method to find out whether sensors designed to detect weap-onized pathogens work as advertised.

It is not a simple task. One can't walk out into a field and release live anthrax spores into the air. That would obviously endanger anyone nearby.

"It is ethically impermissible. It's dangerous and puts people at risk," said Henry Gibbons of the Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's biosciences division.

The center is developing non-pathogenic Bacillus thuringiensis simulant strains that contain unique genetic "barcodes," or tags, to monitor how spores respond or persist in the environment.

The T&E community has had one simulant to work with since the 1940s, which limits the kind of tests that can be carried out. Spots like Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, where it has been used for decades, already has too much of it in the environment.

"There is a lot of that stuff already out there," Gibbons said.

Furthermore, every time there is a test, scientists have to wait for the fake pathogen to decay before proceeding to the next round. …

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