The high risk associated with biological threat agents determines that any suspicious sample be handled under strict surety and safety controls, and processed under high-level containment in specialized laboratories. These specialized facilities are complex, very expensive to operate, and need to be staffed by personnel from an extremely limited pool of experts. In addition, safe means of transporting samples suspected of containing highly virulent agents to specialized high-level containment laboratories for analysis is also expensive, requiring, in many countries, the custody of armed personnel. It can be estimated that several million dollars are spent annually worldwide to secure and safely transport an increasing stream of suspicious biological samples that are collected in theaters of war, as well as in domestic environments.

Prior art includes a device used to identify a variety of microbial agents simultaneously. The sample agents that are tested are generally not preserved for subsequent detection, diagnostics, or forensics. Moreover, denaturation and purification steps prevent immune-based testing. While the technique analyzes the sample using a single and specific nucleic-acid-based methodology (hybridization), it does not preserve the sample for future testing. Accordingly, there remains a need for diagnostic techniques that reserve potentially dangerous samples for future immune or various nucleic-acid-based testing.

A handheld device was developed that processes a biological threat agent sample such that any infectious organism is rendered harmless while preserving it for subsequent testing. The method comprises placing a sample of the biological threat agent in a reservoir, and adding a reagent comprising peracetic acid in sufficient concentration to reach a predetermined minimal concentration after mixing with the sample in the reservoir. Peracetic acid should be in sufficient concentration so as to reach, after mixing with the sample, a minimal concentration of 0.03% v/v. For example, a tested effective mixture includes placing peracetic acid of 0.06% v/v in the reservoir to which an equal volume of the sample is added, resulting in an active final concentration of 0.03% v/v. The sample and the reagent may be placed in the reservoir for approximately 30 minutes at approximately 21 °C. The method may further comprise adding a second reagent comprising any of diluents and catalase in the reservoir to decompose any remaining peracetic acid after inactivation.

The inactivated sample is removed from the reservoir for subsequent diagnostic testing that is unaffected by inactivation of the sample.

For more information, contact Dan Swanson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 406-994-7736.

Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2017 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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