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Quick reaction by companies to ricin and other health scares

Companies provide detection equipment for potential terrorist disease and poison attacks.


Universal Detection Technology

What happens in Vegas could be contagious; but don't worry, despite the recent ricin scare on the Strip, your chances of dying from exotic poison or a bio-engineered infection are pretty slim - even at the buffet.

Still, companies are betting their R&D budgets that the government will ante up to protect you from the toxin de jour. Their odds are good. Universal Detection Technology received a rush of orders for its ricin detection kit after a man was found in critical condition in a Las Vegas motel room with a case of suspected ricin poisoning.

"Although no direct links to terrorism has been yet drawn in this recent case in Las Vegas, it is important to note that hazardous materials in the hands of domestic terrorists can be a very serious threat," said UDT CEO Jacques Tizabi. His company stands "positioned to capitalize on opportunities related to Homeland Security."

Not long ago, super staph (AKA Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) replaced "flesh eating bacteria" in the public's imagination as the most gruesome of killer bugs. For that, UDT licensed and commercialized a technology designed to detect microbial buildup in closed-loop environments like the International Space Station. It's now marketed as the Microbial Event Monitor, a kind of smoke detector for airborne bacterias like super staph.

Let's get medieval. Salt Lake City based Idaho Technology (ITI) sells FDA approved kits that detect plague (Yersinia pestis) and Tularemia (rabbit fever). Both are classified by the CDC as Category A, bioterrorism national security risks. Relax, even the company admits it's highly unlikely you'll step in something and contract a naturally occurring dose of either. But ITI scored big when DOD selected its Joint Biological Agent Identification and Diagnostic System (JBAIDS) as "the" platform for pathogens associated with bioterrorism.

Next up ITI will seek FDA approval for a brucellosis detection kit. (It already has anthrax covered.)

Now for the big guns, Ebola and Marburg: Wonks from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases have developed virus-like particles (VLPs) that protect monkeys 100 percent against both Ebola and Marburg and they're scaling up production in hopes of beginning clinical trials in humans in a few years, according to Science Daily.

You are more likely to be eaten by a Nile crocodile than bleeding out your eyeballs from Ebola, but why take chances?

CDC Public Health Image Library