Lab Spotlight

Portable Anthrax Testing With Lab-in-a-Pocket

LabSpot Sandia

Developed at Sandia National Laboratories, the Bacillus anthracis Diagnostics (BaDx) cartridge can sample, sense, and detect bacteria that cause anthrax—even in environments with no power, refrigerated storage, or laboratory equipment.

Named by Popular Science as one of its 100 best innovations of 2015, BaDx’s simple design makes it safe and easy to use with minimal training. It’s hardy against wide temperature variation and can detect very small numbers of anthrax spores.

BaDx works a lot like a common pregnancy test. A field technician inserts a sample swab into the cartridge, which then uses a lateral flow assay to detect B. anthracis. Magnetically operated valves allow the sample to advance from stage to stage to complete the testing process. If anthrax is present, a colored line appears on the device several hours later.

Aquila, a New Mexico employee-owned small business, licensed BaDx from Sandia in 2014 and is marketing the device to first responders and agricultural markets as its “flagship product” that “[puts] the power of a diagnostic laboratory into the palm of your hand.” The company says it plans to one day offer similar cartridges that detect E.coli, salmonella, valley fever, and group A Strep.

Lab Spotlight