New Rapid DNA Tests for Anthrax

Thousands of Americans have been tested for anthrax over the last several weeks. As more cases pop up, more people are getting tested everyday. It's a sad sign of the times, but it may soon get easier. Until recently, anthrax testing was something that no one worried about. Up to now, it's always taken a couple days to get results but new DNA technology from the Mayo Clinic will mean results in just minutes.

Dr. Franklin Cockerill, a Mayo Clinic microbiologist says, "It's a highly reliable and accurate test but most importantly it can be done so quickly." So quickly, that now with a blood sample, it will take doctors as little as thirty minutes to see if a person has anthrax. Dr. Cockerill says, "The tests that are currently out there take upwards of three days or longer to confirm the diagnosis of anthrax. Even though they're not poor tests, they do take longer." One of the reasons it took longer, the results had to be sent off to a different place for more testing. Dr. Cockerill says, "The test is different because it's a confirmation test. It says this is or this is not anthrax, you don't have to refer it for additional testing."

This new DNA test has been in the works for three years. They originally wanted the test for other infectious diseases, like herpes, but when anthrax cases started breaking out in different parts of the country, they wrapped up the study, so they could get the tests out. Right now, they're in only 24 test cities, most of them in the east. But soon, they'll be in qualified labs across the country, for large-scale testing. Mayo Clinic is giving the DNA tests to labs for free, and they'll be available as early as Friday, November 9th.