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    Assessing Biohazards Lurking in the Air

    Assessing Biohazards Lurking in the Air

    Courtesy Photo | The BioFlyte z200 provides a cost-effective, rapid biological detection system that...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies Department

    New technology the size of a carry-on bag can augment the way warfighters monitor and detect indoor biological hazards. An automated, intricate, and analytical technique that detects and identifies bioaerosol threats without being monitored provides enhanced capability and decreases burden for warfighters.

    The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Chemical and Biological Technologies Department in its role as the Joint Science and Technology Office (JSTO) worked in partnership with the Army Research Office to fund Zeteo Tech Inc. through a Small Business Innovation Research Phase III award to create an instrument capable of detecting bioaerosol threats that can continuously monitor an indoor environment for anomalous bioaerosol activity and be run remotely.

    Bioaerosols are microscopic airborne particles of biological origin that can be dead or alive and pathogenic (capable of causing disease) or non-pathogenic. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, is just one example of a microbe that can be transmitted by aerosols and become a serious threat to warfighters and the public.

    Aerosolized pathogens can secretly lurk in the air without activating any of the human senses—they are tasteless, odorless, inaudible, and invisible to the human eye. Their surreptitious nature gives them the advantage of invading, transmitting, and infecting people days before any onset of symptoms. This has pushed the Department of Defense to think creatively on how to innovate and develop technology capable of providing early warning and detection of bioaerosol hazards.

    This technology is called the BioFlyte z200, and it provides a cost-effective, rapid biological detection system that collects air samples to identify potential biological aerosol hazards in near real time, while costing just pennies per test to run a sample.

    This detection technology packages and automates intricate laboratory processes using novel Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization – Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry and can complete sample to result in under five minutes. It processes and interrogates the sample for unique features by:

    • Mixing the sample with a matrix solution

    • Depositing and drying the sample onto a test ticket

    • Using laser pulses to vaporize the sample where ions travel through the time-of-flight tube

    • Measuring the sample based on mass-to-charge ratio and mass resolution

    • Conducting data analysis and displaying results

    These measurements can then be cross-referenced with a spectral library database and further analyzed to determine if a potential threat is present.

    The instrument is capable of continuously running and monitoring an indoor environment as it can be set to automatically collect samples and test the air in the room to assess if there is anomalous activity or if a potential threat can be detected. In addition to continuous monitoring, the instrument can be remotely triggered by an operator at any time a sample is needed.

    Through DTRA-JSTO investments, additional characterization studies were conducted to further develop a robust spectral library and to best allow the BioFlyte instrument, with the capability of detecting and identifying a variety of biological threats, to add to the library’s collection.

    One example is the initial study and characterization of SARS-CoV-2 on the BioFlyte. This not only helps support the potential population of the spectral library but, more importantly, helps to compare the performance of the BioFlyte against other mass spectrometers that can be physically larger and more expensive, and also compare the signatures from the BioFlyte instrument with the expected signatures for SARS-CoV-2 already published.

    These results are being evaluated and will be used to help determine the mass resolution of the instrument and identify any potential areas for improvement. Once anomalous activities are reported, mass resolution may play a critical role in reducing false alarms by correctly parsing out threats from benign bioaerosols based on the spectral library.

    POC: Charles Hong,



    Date Taken: 06.23.2021
    Date Posted: 06.23.2021 13:48
    Story ID: 399540
    Location: FT. BELVOIR, VA, US

    Web Views: 707
    Downloads: 0