A rapid method for detecting and identifying very small numbers of diverse bacteria, from anthrax to E. coli, has been developed by scientists from the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

MyDNANews of Maryland reports that the work was published in the March 28 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new method may lead to the development of handheld devices to be used for faster identification of biological weapons as well as antibiotic-resistant or virulent strains of bacteria.

Traditional methods could take hours or even days. The new method can detect and identify cells in only about an hour.

A provisional patent application has been filed originally through NIST, and a non-provisional patent application was filed more recently through the National Institutes of Health, the parent agency of NCI.