Universal Detection Technology Enhances Sensitivity of the Anthrax

'Smoke' Detector Company's device measures luminescence of an acid unique to bacterial spores


Universal Detection Technology has enhanced the sensitivity of the Anthrax 'smoke' Detector (ASD) by improving the sample collection efficiency of the device.

Universal Detection Technology has developed the ASD based on a technology developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). JPL's Planetary Protection Unit originally created the technology to help assure that spacecraft sent to other planets do not harbor terrestrial life. The technology uses a time-gated spectrometer to measure the luminescence of Dipicolinic acid (DPA), a chemical unique to bacterial spores, when it binds to a chemical sensor.

"We noticed during our test trials that we were not achieving a 100 precent binding efficiency from the released DPA with the chemical sensor," said Amir Ettehadieh, director of research and development at Universal Detection. "We realized that some of the DPA released from spore germination was binding to the glass fiber in the collection tape; therefore, we started testing different material for the collection tape. By switching to an aluminum mesh tape we are now getting all of the released DPA available for binding with the sensor."

UDT has also successfully coupled a PM-10 inlet head to the ASD. The PM-10 inlet head will only allow particles smaller than 10 microns to enter the device. Weaponized anthrax spores range between 1-3 microns in size.

In improving the sample collection efficiency of the ASD, UDT has demonstrated (1) that 100 percent of the Dipicolinic acid (DPA, 2,6-pyridinedicarboxilic acid) released following spore germination is available for binding to the sensor molecule; and (2) the exact number of captured spores can be directly correlated to the magnitude of luminescence intensity from the binding of the DPA and the sensor molecule. Consequently, the increased sensitivity of the device has reduced the probability of a potential bacterial spore release going unnoticed.