Advnt Biotechnologies Helps First Responders Test For Deadly Agents

Monday, April 27, 2015

Whether it’s an act of bioterrorism or a natural occurrence, detecting the presence of deadly agents in the air, water, food or contaminated materials is a critical responsibility of first responders. Fortunately, they need not face this challenging task alone. Advnt Biotechnologies makes accurate, easy-to-use first responder test kits for agents of greatest concern to public health, including anthrax, botulism, ricin toxin,   Y. pestis and SEB.

In 2001, anthrax was weaponized and placed into envelopes mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. This act of bioterrorism killed five people and infected 17 others. Once exposed, the incubation period is between one and seven days. For the infection to form, an infectious dose, which is typically recognized as 8,000 to 10,000 spores, must be inhaled and lodged deep inside the lungs.

Symptoms of anthrax infection include fever, flu-like symptoms, cough, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, among others. Due to the ease of dissemination and potential for high mortality rates, anthrax is considered a “Category A” agent – of the highest priority – by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As the most poisonous substance known to man, botulism is an attractive agent for bioterrorism. In the early nineties, a radical Japanese cult weaponized botulinum toxin in aerosol form and disseminated it in downtown Tokyo and on U.S. military installations. For reasons unknown the attack failed, but it is a known fact that botulism effectively released in aerosol form would not only kill those targeted, but also 10 percent of the people downwind for up to one-third of a mile!

Once exposed to botulinum toxin, the incubation period is between one and five days. Symptoms of infection include double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth and muscle weakness. Botulism is considered a “Category A” agent by the CDC.

Found naturally in castor beans, ricin toxin can be weaponized in the form of a powder, mist, pellet or dissolved in water or acid. Once exposed, the incubation period is between 6 and 8 hours.

If ingested, symptoms of ricin infection include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures and blood in the urine. If inhaled, symptoms include difficulty breathing, fever, cough, nausea, tightness of chest, heavy sweating and fluid build-up in the lungs. Because it is only moderately easy to disseminate and mortality rates are relatively low, ricin is considered a “Category B” by the CDC – the second-highest priority agent.

Many are surprised to learn that in the U.S. there are as many as a dozen cases of plague – a “Category A” agent – reported each year. Spread by infected fleas, this is the same bubonic plague that wiped out one-third of Europe in the fourteenth century. Since it cannot be transmitted from person-to-person, plague is easily contained. However, bioterrorists interested in using this deadly agent could weaponize pneumonic plague in aerosol form.

After being exposed to plague (Y. pestis), the incubation period is between one and six days. Symptoms of pneumonic plague include fever, weakness, pneumonia, shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Symptoms of bubonic plague include tender swollen lymph glands that, if untreated, can spread through the bloodstream and cause the pneumonic form as well.

Though less lethal than some other biological weapons, SEB (Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B) are attractive to bioterrorists because many people can be made sick with just a small amount of the toxin. It’s also easy to weaponize in aerosol form.

Once exposed to SEB – a “Category B” agent – the incubation period is between 8 and 24 hours. Symptoms of mild exposure include cough, headache and cloudy eyes. Symptoms of serious exposure include fever, vomiting, chest pain, nausea and fluid build-up in the lungs. Though the fatality rate is only one percent, those infected can be seriously ill for up to two weeks.

Considering the grave danger of these agents, immediate detection is critical. That’s why Advnt Biotechnologies develops and manufactures first responder test kits that return results in as little as three minutes! This rapid detection, coupled with ease-of-use and accuracy, makes first responder test kits from Advnt Biotechnologies the preferred choice of HazMat crews and other first responders all over the world.