John F. Regan, Anthony J. Makarewicz, Benjamin J. Hindson, Thomas R. Metz, Dora M. Gutierrez, Todd H. Corzett, Dean R. Hadley, Ryan C. Mahnke, Bruce D. Henderer, John W. Breneman IV, Todd H. Weisgraber, and John M. Dzenitis*
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, California 94550
We have developed and field-tested a now operational civilian biodefense capability that continuously monitors the air in high-risk locations for biological threat agents. This stand-alone instrument, called the Autonomous Pathogen Detection System (APDS), collects and selec- tively concentrates particles from the air into liquid samples and analyzes the samples using multiplexed PCR amplification coupled with microsphere array detection. During laboratory testing, we evaluated the APDS instru- ment’s response to Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis by spiking the liquid sample stream with viable spores and cells, bead-beaten lysates, and purified DNA extracts. APDS results were also compared to a manual real-time PCR method. Field data acquired during 74 days of continuous operation at a mass-transit subway station are presented to demonstrate the specificity and reliability of the APDS. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently selected the APDS reported herein as the first autonomous detector component of their BioWatch anti- terrorism program. This sophisticated field-deployed sur- veillance capability now generates actionable data in one- tenth the time of manual filter collection and analysis.