DETECTION AND DIAGNOSIS
have been proposed for rapid on-site response to critical animal health issues, such as for a potential foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in an area not immediately accessible to regional laboratory services.
Advances in biostabilization—essentially freeze-drying of unstable assay components—have also allowed movement of assays from the traditional laboratory to the field, as well as provided the foundation for fully automated on-site detection systems that continuously sample the air (termed “sniffers”) and monitor high-risk environments. In 2000, author Richard Preston envisioned a portable environmental “sniffer” paired with PCR for genome-based detection of a bioterror agent, compacted into the size of a briefcase (Preston, 1997). Preston’s novel, a fictionalized account of bioterrorism, was based on real-world developments that ultimately led to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch program. Since 2003, BioWatch and prototype commercial environmental sampling and test systems have continuously monitored selected public venues, including subways, banks, and post offices, for human biothreat agents (CDC, 2005; OSTP, 2005). Similar automated sampling and monitoring of high-risk animal environments for high-economic risk pathogens have not received equal attention.
The local public health community can choose to use a broad array of diagnostic tools ranging from simple rapid detection tests, such as at-