Scientists at the Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore say the instruments will also detect substances like ricin, shiga and SEB toxin, all of which could be used in bioterrorism attacks.
Once perfected and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and commercialized, such detectors would most likely be used in emergency rooms in the event of a bioterrorism incident, a laboratory release said Tuesday.
"This is an unmet need for the nation's biodefense program," Anup Singh of Sandia's biological science and technology group said. "A point-of-care device does not exist."
The need for diagnostic devices for biodefense will always be with us, Singh said, since new diseases that lack good diagnostic assays are always being discovered.
"Plus, we want dual-use devices that combat both man-made and nature-made problems," he said. "We're not just going to wait for the next anthrax letter incident to happen for our devices to be used and tested; we want them to be useful for other things as well, like infectious diseases."
Sandia's research is being funded by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.