The malevolent use of Anthrax spores on civilians in 2001 has shown the necessity to protect citizens from criminal use of biological agents. The success of such attack depends on sufficient concentration of pathogens in a defined area. Detecting pathogenous bacteria, spores and viruses must be accomplished by triggering short-term alarm and identification of the type of threat. Since most the bio sensors available today are laboratory bound or require special equipment which needs training as well as experience, new systems are needed. The concept of BIO-PROTECT is the development of a fast-alert, easy-to-use device for detection and identification of airborne bacteria, spores, viruses and toxins. It is based on bioaerosol detection by fluorescence, scattering and background aerosol measurement followed by ionisation of air flow and analysis of the spectrum of relative speed of passage, enabling identification of biological agents.
Description of work
The work in BIO-PROTECT is structured in 4 technical Work Packages, addressing the following activities:
- Development of a bio-agent detection system based on a miniaturised GC-IMS (Gas Chromatograph - Ion Mobility Spectrometry) instrument able to identify and separate extremely small amounts of a wide range of organic molecules resulting of heat-decomposed organic matter.
- Integration of a particle size analyser which constantly monitors the ambient air, thus triggering a measurement if a sudden change in particle size and/or density occurs.
- Improvement and integration of a continuously operating bioaerosol detector measuring fluorescence, scattering and background aerosol properties to detect presence of potentially harmful biological agents in ambient air and to trigger further identification
- Research and development of a combined pre-concentration and pyrolysis unit for use with a GC-IMS, that can separate all types of bio-agents from aerosols. The target is to detect bio-agent concentrations likely to infect or intoxicate.
- Development of pattern analysis software for the interpretation of the acquired spectra, thereby identifying bio-agents and distinguishing them from background bacteria.
- Generation of a database with fingerprint-data of several model-agents (and their avirulent or non-toxic surrogates respectively) of bacteria, toxins and viruses. The scope of Bio-Protect includes constant extension and upgrading of the database, leading to the delivery of a marketable version with an extended scope.
- Development of a control unit operated by a touch screen also displaying the discrete results and development of a PC user interface for testing and evaluation of the device.
- Design of the device and integration of the components.
The development of the proposed device will provide security personnel with a viable tool to take fast effective countermeasures on biological threats. This will drastically reduce the potential impact of terrorist aggressions or accidental release of bio-agents from laboratories, as well as detect spreading of pathogenic microorganisms in the food producing industry or in hospitals.
This breakthrough would lead to technological advantage and favour leadership of European industry in this field.