Worldwide, recent incidents have threatened civil society by the attempted use of different biological toxins and have thereby shown that increased vigilance and adequate preparation is of increasing importance in a world facing growing risks of man-made disasters. Previous studies show that there is a lack of robustness in European preparedness for biotoxin incidents. There is a need for standard analytical tools and procedures, reference materials, state-of-the-art training and establishment of a European proficiency testing scheme.
In order to promptly and accurately identify an attack with biological agents, different technologies are available for toxin detection and analysis. However, the comparability of analytical results from different European laboratories is rather poor. Conclusions from previous EU studies (EQuaTox, eg) show there is a need to develop an EU-wide approach to enhance and validate analytical capacities for biological toxin measurements in case of bioterrorism threats, similarly to the capacities in place regarding chemical threats.
Using current best practice, the EuroBioTox core members (13 EU institutions) will develop and validate improved analytical tools, reagents and standard operating procedures based on realistic incident scenarios.
Certified Reference Materials for the threat biotoxins will be developed and will be made available to the EuroBioTox network including more than 50 European organisations, expert laboratories, industrial partners and end-users. Training courses at basic and advanced levels will be developed and attended by the EuroBioTox network partners, followed by a series of proficiency tests which, through these “outer circle” associates, will disseminate best practice methods across Europe.
The final outcome of the project will be a pan-European network of competence, certified reference materials, standard operating procedures and a common way of handling biotoxin incidents.
The deficits identified in the EQuATox project (previous work) indicated a lack of adequate validation tools for the detection of biological toxins. These conclusions were based on several findings. It was noted that only a limited number of EU Member States felt prepared to participate in the individual PTs and it was clear that there is a lack of certified or even qualified reference materials (RMs) for most of the toxins making validation and accreditation of needed detection methods difficult. Finally there was a lack of official Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
The main objectives of the EuroBiotTox project are to:
- Evaluate currently available analytical tools, methods, reagents, reference samples and matrices using the expertise of the consortium to refine analytical methods for biological toxins (ricin, abrin, botulinum toxins, Staphyloccoucs aureus enterotoxins, saxitoxin)
- Improve validation and testing capabilities for biological toxin analysis
- Enable laboratories across the EU to improve their analytical skills in detecting biological toxins
- Replace animal experiments for the detection of BoNT