New Defense Against Bioterrorism

January 15, 2008

The latest defense against bioterrorism may use your own saliva. A new toothbrush-sized field test developed by the Navy provides a rapid, inexpensive way to determine protection levels against anthrax. A test strip samples saliva and changes color within minutes to indicate immunization status. The rapid, noninvasive test replaces slow, expensive, laboratory tests that require blood.

This new test can rapidly confirm that warfighters are protected against anthrax in the field, and also is a boon to first-responder and health-care personnel as it can quickly be determined who needs treatment.

The invention combines saliva sampling technology with specific reagents for determining anthrax vaccine efficacy. Patented and developed by the Naval Institute for Dental and Biomedical Research (NIDBR), the invention was licensed to Bamburgh Marrsh LLC, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, for commercialization. TechLink worked with the Naval Medical Research Center to trtansfer the technology to the company. The Navy test reagents are used with Bamburgh Marrsh’s proprietary sample collection technology, Saliva Sampler. In addition to the license, a companion Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that TechLInk helped to broker between Bamburgh Marrsh and the Navy is providing the opportunity to optimize the test and gather additional data for rapid FDA approval.

Commercialization of this invention is important because immunization against anthrax is expensive and requires a series of vaccinations. Current laboratory test of immune response can take one to two days using conventional immunoassays—a dangerously long time to be uncertain about anthrax immunization in an emergency. In the case of a large-scale biowarfare incident, this test would help to quickly identify individuals needing further vaccination without having to access their medical records.