EU-Project: Establishment of Quality Assurances for the Detection of
Biological Toxins of Potential Bioterrorism Risk

Project Objectives

The features of biological toxins like ricin, botulinum toxins,
staphylococcal enterotoxins and saxitoxin place them at the interface of
biological and chemical agents. They may cause a significant
bioterroristic threat. Thus, the current preparedness within European
countries should be further improved to limit casualties in the case of
an intentional release. While different technologies for toxin detection
have been established, hardly any universally agreed "gold standards"
are available, and reference materials as well as proficiency tests are
generally lacking.
To address these issues EQuATox will create a network of experts among
EU 27 and associated countries, focussing on biological toxins and
integrating experts from the security, verification, health and food
Description of the work

The main objectives of EQuATox are the following:

    Establishment of an EU-wide network focussing on the detection and
identification of biological toxins which are at the interface of
classical B- and C-agents.
    Screening for information within Europe: who is responsible for the
detection of biological toxins of potential bioterrorism risk in each
country? Currently 32 laboratories from 20 countries are interested to
take part in the EQuATox project, and the network is open for further
laboratories to join us.
    Generation and characterisation of toxin reference material, in case
it is not accessible from certified sources. Proficiency tests are
planned to compare diagnostic results attained by different analytical
    Identification of "best practices" for the analysis of the different
biological toxins based on the results obtained in the proficiency
tests. Recommendations will be given on how to close any gaps
    Exchange of information and know-how between all network partners,
including information on protocols, reagents etc. in order to optimize
analytical procedures within the network's laboratories.

Expected results

By creating a network of experts the project will substantially help to
increase preparedness in the field of biological toxins. Based on the
status quo of toxin detection described in EQuATox, good practices and
gaps in detection technology will be identified as foundation to
harmonise and standardise detection capabilities.