Army news service (May 19, 2005): detection device to revolutionize biological warfare.
"JBAIDS will fill a vital role in providing accurate, rapid identification capability for detecting a threat or an attack," said Donna Boston, JBAIDS program manager.
Prior to JBAIDS, it took the military two to four days back in a microbiology laboratory to accurately identify the presence of a biological warfare agent. JBAIDS can do it on the spot in 40 minutes.
"With rapid identification of a threat, we can be armed with information to fight bioterrorism," Boston said. "It offers so many advantages. The quicker we can identify an agent, the quicker a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis and commanders can start taking action."
The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense, a joint service office in Falls Church, Va., found the technology in 2002 while seeking a quicker way to detect biological warfare agents in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and later anthrax scares.
Idaho Technology, Inc., from Salt Lake City, Utah, stepped forward with JBAIDS, the latest in biological warfare technology.
The device looks deceptively simple, just a laptop connected to an analyzer.
Lab technicians load suspect samples into a carousel within the analyzer where they're "cooked and cooled" repeatedly so strands of DNA break apart and replicate to make copies of themselves.
Each time heating and cooling occur, more DNA copies are formed, which takes something from undetectable to identifiable.
The device can simultaneously identify up to 10 different biological warfare agents in a given sample, including smallpox, anthrax, plague, and encephalitis.
"If something is there that threatens the health of our military force, you will be able to detect it much sooner," said Maj. Harry Whitlock II, Army Medical Department Center and School combat developer. "This is the 'new' gold standard. Other rapid diagnostic methods, like handheld assays, don't have nearly the same sensitivity."
JBAIDS' sensitivity, or ability to accurately identify specimens containing an agent, is averaging at least 85 percent per test, and its specificity, or accuracy in pinpointing the percentage of specimens without an agent, has averaged at least 90 percent.
The result is a higher confidence in the accuracy of information for military leaders. "Everyone in the scientific community is excited because JBAIDS allows detection of a very minute level, and commanders are excited because the troops will be better protected," said Whitlock.
JBAIDS' size enables the device to travel with service-members into war, eliminating the need to send samples to a laboratory stateside, which delays diagnosis and treatment of affected people. DoD began a joint-service testing of the device in 2003 to ensure the civilian-made system could be as effective in war as in a stateside lab.
"JBAIDS has been through a long series of developmental tests," Boston said. "Government labs went through thousands of samples of biological warfare organisms. The data are still being evaluated, but the system and test assay kits have performed very well so far."
The latest was a two-week operational test at Brooks City-Base, which wrapped up March 18, 2005. Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps lab technicians and program developers traveled to San Antonio to make sure the device met DoD specifications.
The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, based at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., took the lead on the exercise, while the Army Medical Department provided ongoing training and technical assistance.
Army Chemical Corps personnel collected irradiated or "dead" samples from the field and delivered them to lab technicians from the Army's 1st and 9th Area Medical Laboratories from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
The technicians set up shop in portable "ISO-shelters," which can be packed up and shipped worldwide, then extracted a test sample for analysis from environmental, food, and clinical specimens such as blood and sputum.
"This was the first major joint-service test (for this equipment)," Boston said. "It took more than a year of constant planning to get to this point. We're working as fast as we can to get this technology out there quickly."
After validation by a joint-service Data Authentication Group, the operational test results will be forwarded to the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense for a final green light. If approved, JBAIDS will enter full-rate production in September, and the DoD will distribute 450 systems throughout the services over the next three years.
In the meantime, Idaho Technology will seek Food and Drug Administration approval, something that will help launch JBAIDS into civilian and military fixed and deployable medical facilities as a diagnostic tool and into DoD veterinary food labs for testing of food and water supplies.
The modifiable JBAIDS will continue to evolve over the next several years. The next step is the addition of toxin detection this summer, and later, development and testing of a handheld version, Boston said.
"JBAIDS is a reliable, well-tested technology that will have a huge impact on military and civilian sectors," Boston said. "It's sad to think we live in a world where bio-threats are a reality, but it's better to be prepared and have answers; JBAIDS will ensure we have the right ones."
Wilson is with the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.