, Volume 377, Issue 3, pp 550-555
Date: 12 Aug 2003

Non-aerosol detection of explosives with a continuous flow immunosensor

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Abstract

Contamination of groundwater, soil, and the marine environment by explosives is a global issue. Identification, characterization and remediation are all required for a site recognized as contaminated with 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) or hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX). For each step, a method to accurately measure the contaminant level is needed. This paper reviews some of the current methods with emphasis on a single biosensor developed in our laboratory. Current regulatory methods require samples to be sent off-site to a certified laboratory resulting in time delays up to a month. A continuous flow biosensor for detection of explosives has been developed and tested for the rapid field screening of environmental samples. The detection system is based on a displacement immunoassay in which monoclonal antibodies to (TNT) and RDX are immobilized on solid substrates, allowed to bind fluorescently labeled antigens, and then exposed to explosives in aqueous samples. Explosive compounds present in the sample displace proportional amounts of the fluorescent label, which can then be measured to determine the original TNT or RDX concentration. The system can accurately detect ppb to ppt levels of explosives in groundwater or seawater samples and in extracts of contaminated soil. The biosensor has applications in environmental monitoring at remediation sites or in the location of underwater unexploded ordnance.