The recovery operations following the 2001 attacks with Bacillus anthracis spores were complicated due to the unprecedented need for large-area surface sampling and decontamination protocols. Since this event, multiple reports have been published describing recovery efficiencies of several surface sampling materials. These materials include fibrous swabs of various compositions, cloth wipes, vacuum socks, and adhesive tapes. These materials have reported recovery efficiencies ranging from approximately 20% to 90% due to the many variations in their respective studies including sampling material, composition of surface sampled, concentration of contaminant, and even the method of deposition and sample processing. Additionally, the term recovery efficiency is crudely defined and could be better constructed to incorporate variations in contaminated surface composition and end user needs. While significant efforts in devising protocols for large-area surface sampling have been undertaken in the years since the anthrax attacks, there is still a general lack of consensus in optimal sampling materials and the methodology in which they are evaluated. Fortunately, sampling efforts are continuing to be supported, and the knowledge gaps in our procedures, methodology, and general understanding of sampling mechanisms are being investigated which will leave us better prepared for the future.
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Edmonds, J.M. Efficient methods for large-area surface sampling of sites contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms and other hazardous agents: current state, needs, and perspectives. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 84, 811–816 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-009-2136-z
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