The device, produced through a joint venture between New York's Cornell University and the University of Albany's CNSE (College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering) division, can pick on the presence of anthrax in 15 minutes, according to reports.
When presented with a contaminated sample, it can apparently pick out the bacteria when present in extremely small concentrations - down to 40 minute cells - and, as per information on the technology published in the International Journal of Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, it incorporates advanced nano material-based fluidic cartridges.
Anthrax Detection Technology
Once a sample of the material to be tested has been manually placed on the anthrax detection technology, the machine does the rest, making the process almost entirely automatic.
Anthrax, formally known as Bacillus anthracis, is a microbe with the power to kill. As a component of biological warfare, it can be used by insurgent forces to infect subjects, potentially through inhalation or ingestion (i.e. when it's present in food samples or water supplies).
Known as a ‘lab-on-a-chip' device, the new anthrax detector features sample and reagent inputs and carries out DNA purification measures.
"The average time required for DNA purification during these experiments was approximately 15 minutes, and when combined with real-time PCR analysis, this resulted in an average time to detection of 60 minutes", the researchers explained, adding: "Due to its small size and low power requirements, this system can be further developed as a truly portable, hand-held device".
Almost a decade ago, the US experienced a series of anthrax attacks, in which contaminated letters were sent, with the result that five people died and 17 more were infected.
As per a statement made by CNSE, should an attack occur, anthrax detection measures are vital if high fatality levels are to be avoided.