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Brookhaven Lab develops 'ThraxVac' to clean up anthrax

UPTON, NY Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a device, dubbed "ThraxVac," that can collect and kill anthrax and other bacterial spores. The patent-pending device has been licensed to Circle Group Holdings, Inc., a public company based in Mundeen, Illinois.

ThraxVac vacuums up anthrax and other bacterial spores, then "tricks" the spores into germinating through heat and moisture, thus making them vulnerable to injury. The newly activated spores are then bombarded with alpha particles, a form of radioactivity that does not penetrate skin or clothes. The alpha particles kill the spores, rendering them nontoxic.

Carl Czajkowski, a Brookhaven Lab scientist, and Barbara Panessa-Warren, a biology consultant for Brookhaven, thought of the idea for the invention together in 2001 shortly after several anthrax incidents in the U.S. were widely reported. Czajkowski said, "We thought there must be a better way to clean up anthrax, other than using harsh chemicals that are dangerous to humans and to the environment. Also, chemicals often can't do the job thoroughly."

ThraxVac is expected to be as portable as a home vacuum, or it can be retrofitted as part of a building's heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, where it would continually capture and kill suspect bacteria and spores. In both of these technologies, a disposable filter is fitted with its own enclosed low-level polonium-210 source that emits alpha particles to continuously kill collected spores. All collected spores would be dead when the filter is discarded.

Using alpha particles for commercial processes is not new to industry. Specifically, alpha particles emitted from polonium-210 act as a static eliminator in paper mills and other industries. Alpha particles in ThraxVac can be used to decontaminate not only large surfaces, but also intricate machinery and moving parts, without impairment of function. Potential use
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Contact: Diane Greenberg
greenb@bnl.gov
631-344-2347
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
7-Oct-2003


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