Firefly Dx – Detecting Ebola in 20 Minutes


Law enforcement agencies nationwide are hastening to develop and implement Ebola protocols for first responders. The uncertainty surrounding Ebola is adding to the stress LEOs feel for a host of other reasons.

Fox News Business recently aired an interview with PositiveID’s President Lyle Probst and Senior Advisor Tom DiNanno to introduce the successful prototype of the Firefly Dx point-of-need pathogen detection system.

Firefly is a hand-held device that can be programmed to detect a broad band of pathogens, including Ebola. While existing laboratory procedures take four hours to process, PositiveID’s system will provide accurate results in less than 20 minutes using a hand-held device. Add to the standard four-hour lab time protocols for bagging, making safe for transport, and properly delivering the sample.

Originally designed to counter the biological aspect of Chemical, Biological, Nuclear, and Radiological (CBNR) warfare, the system is already suited for tackling virulent strains. The system is highly adaptable and can be programmed to detect an array of biological agents used in weapons of mass destruction. Samples can come in the form of buccal swabs, whole blood, urine, and environmental samples.

Additionally, the system can be used for PCR assay. While law enforcement and other first responders may not be interested in diagnosing cancer and endocrine diseases, PCR can be used to detect radiation sickness.

The procedure is no more invasive that the buccal swab currently used for DNA testing of sex offenders. Considering the existing health dangers to law enforcement personnel such as HIV, MRSA, and antibiotic-resistant TB, acquisition of such units may be a prudent step for criminal justice agencies. This new technology should be available for public distribution within the next year.

According to the interview on Fox Business, the target cost of the hand-held system is $5 – 10k, an affordable cost for a host of agencies.

Bruce Bremer, MBA is LET’s technology contributor. Bruce retired from the Submarine Service after 21 years of in-depth experience with complex electronic technology. Lately, he is developing a corporate learning management system (Moodle LMS), curricula, and technical documentation for lighter-than-air tethered surveillance craft (aerostats). He has an extensive background in fleet modernization and military analysis. He teaches electronics and alternative energy at a Virginia college. Besides his MBA, Bruce earned a Bachelor of Science degree in computer networking. He has been volunteering in public safety for many years.

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