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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah company has developed a way to kill deadly anthrax spores -- in record time -- without damaging humans, animals or the environment.
Over the past few years, anthrax threats, real or not, have targeted all 50 governors' offices, 100 U.S. embassies, 52 banks, 36 news organizations, Disneyland, Latter-day Saint temples, town halls, a sheriff's office, a day care center, private homes and even a funeral parlor.
More than 1,000 "white powder events," as they're called, have plagued the FBI over the past three years.
That's why this new product could be a welcomed weapon. Developed by Utah-based sBioMed, the sterile killed anthrax spores in a laboratory in less than 30 seconds.
In real-world fogging tests of large interior areas, conducted by Zimek Systems, the stuff was equally impressive.
sBioMed president Brian Larson says, "It can totally destroy spores in a fully-sterilized setting within 30 minutes, which is really record breaking in the industry."
The Utah company tested its newly-developed STERIPLEX in Bio-safety Level III labs. Anthrax spores can remain coated and dormant for thousands of years, waiting for the right conditions naturally, or via the villainous hands of a would-be terrorist.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been looking for a sterilant that can kill rapidly while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been waiting for compounds that won't harm humans, animals or plants -- or destroy the interior of a building.
Corrosive materials used to decontaminate Washington's Brentwood Post Office nine years ago damaged almost everything inside.
"Our teams and crews could go into a building and decontaminate an entire facility in an extremely short time without expecting the facility to remain offline for several years, as has happened in the past," Larson says.
In fact, a building could be reoccupied an hour later.
Researchers at sBioMed ran 500 tests on various recipes before they found the right mix.
"Initially, the first product was constructed with ingredients from a grocery store," says sBioMed research vice president Daryl Tichy.
After hundreds of experiments and refinement in chemistry, it happened. Positive results and a rapid kill were impressive to say the least.
"It was kind of a surprise," Tichy says, "but we knew where we were headed. We just didn't know how long it would take to get there."
In addition to anthrax, the sterilant also kills brucellosis, tularemia and bubonic plague.
Last week, Larson and Tichy were presented the Utah Genius Award for their discovery.