HHS Pursues Fast, Easy Test for Anthrax and Multi-Drug Resistant Anthrax Infections

(Released 30 September 2015) With BARDA support, First Light Biosciences, Inc. of Bedford, Massachusetts will pursue the development of an anthrax diagnostic test for use in a doctor’s office, hospital, clinic or field setting that will provide results within 20 minutes. In addition, the platform will also have the ability to test for multi-drug resistant anthrax infections.

Diagnosing anthrax infections quickly would aid doctors and other healthcare workers in providing life-saving antibiotics, anthrax antitoxins, and other necessary supportive care to infected patients. Anthrax victims initially exhibit flu-like symptoms, so it is vital after an event to distinguish victims in the early stages of anthrax infection from those with similar symptoms. 

The diagnostic device that First Light Biosciences is developing will also be able to provide rapid antimicrobial susceptibility testing results within three to four hours, allowing for the earlyentification of drug-resistant anthrax.  The earlier such infections areentified, the more quickly appropriate alternative therapy can be provided.

The test First Light Biosciences is developing, called the MultiPath, detects the presence of anthrax within drops of the patient’s blood on a test cassette.

Under the agreement, First Light Biosciences also will conduct studies necessary to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. 

The new test is part of BARDA’s comprehensive integrated portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases.