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Establishment of Quality Assurances for the Detection of Biological Toxins of Potential Bioterrorism Risk

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Thwarting bioterrorism threats

Biological toxins could be used for terrorist attacks due to their availability, ease of preparation and the lack of medical countermeasures. The current preparedness within European countries should be further improved to limit casualties in case of an intentional release.


The EU-funded EQUATOX project is setting up a network of European laboratories working in the field of biological toxins. It will involve leading experts from all over the world. Project partners aim to define the current detection capabilities for specific biological toxins, based on the results obtained from large proficiency tests (PTs). Following this, a thorough evaluation will identify best practices, as well as gaps in detection technologies. EQUATOX has already successfully established a network of expert laboratories that focus on the detection and identification of biological toxins. The network currently integrates expertise from 36 laboratories in 24 countries. Two large PTs were organised within the consortium, focusing specifically on the toxins ricin and saxitoxin. The results provided highly relevant insights into the status quo of detection capabilities and offer a sound basis for further development. Shortcomings were also identified both in qualitative and quantitative detections, as well as in sample preparation strategies. Researchers also determined that quality assurance in the field of toxins has to focus on establishing and disseminating suitable reference materials. As a first step in this direction, a consensus concentration could be determined on the ricin reference material prepared for the PT. Through training, networking and recommending operational practices, EQUATOX will ultimately help to minimise the security and health threats posed by biological toxins.

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