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EU-Project: Establishment of Quality Assurances for the Detection of Biological Toxins of Potential Bioterrorism Risk

The pictures display the plant Ricinus communis (ricin); the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum (botulinum neurotoxins); the aerobic bacterium staphylococcus aureus (staphylococcal enterotoxins) and mussels (saxitoxin).The pictures display some organisms able to produce or to contain potent biological toxins (from left to right): the plant Ricinus communis (ricin); the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium botulinum (botulinum neurotoxins); the aerobic bacterium staphylococcus aureus (staphylococcal enterotoxins) and mussels (saxitoxin).

Project Objectives

The features of biological toxins like ricin, botulinum toxins, staphylococcal enterotoxins and saxitoxin place them at the interface of biological and chemical agents. They may cause a significant bioterroristic threat. Thus, the current preparedness within European countries should be further improved to limit casualties in the case of an intentional release. While different technologies for toxin detection have been established, hardly any universally agreed “gold standards” are available, and reference materials as well as proficiency tests are generally lacking.
To address these issues EQuATox will create a network of experts among EU 27 and associated countries, focussing on biological toxins and integrating experts from the security, verification, health and food sector.

Description of the work

The main objectives of EQuATox are the following:

  1. Establishment of an EU-wide network focussing on the detection and identification of biological toxins which are at the interface of classical B- and C-agents.
  2. Screening for information within Europe: who is responsible for the detection of biological toxins of potential bioterrorism risk in each country? Currently 32 laboratories from 20 countries are interested to take part in the EQuATox project, and the network is open for further laboratories to join us.
  3. Generation and characterisation of toxin reference material, in case it is not accessible from certified sources. Proficiency tests are planned to compare diagnostic results attained by different analytical approaches.
  4. Identification of “best practices” for the analysis of the different biological toxins based on the results obtained in the proficiency tests. Recommendations will be given on how to close any gaps identified.
  5. Exchange of information and know-how between all network partners, including information on protocols, reagents etc. in order to optimize analytical procedures within the network’s laboratories.

Expected results

By creating a network of experts the project will substantially help to increase preparedness in the field of biological toxins. Based on the status quo of toxin detection described in EQuATox, good practices and gaps in detection technology will be identified as foundation to harmonise and standardise detection capabilities.

Date: 11.02.2014

Additional Information

Logo of the EQuATox project

Dr. Brigitte Dorner

Phone:
+49 (0)30 - 18754-2500
Fax:
+49 (0)30 - 1810 754-2501