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Low-Cost on the Beach Brevetoxin Field Analysis Kit


Summary:  Provide coastal managers with a low-cost test kit that can be used for real-time toxicity testing at beaches vulnerable to harmful algal blooms (HABs). The availability of low-cost assays will enable rapid determination of HAB severity at multiple locations.  This information will provide actionable data for coastal management in near real-time and will serve to improve forecasts.


Project Goals:  Toxins in coastal waters are difficult to monitor.  Current methods are slow and the delay can result in potential threats to human health and loss of economic activity. This is particularly true of the toxins produced by harmful algal blooms which are becoming more frequent and must be continuously measured at public beaches to ensure public safety. Two issues that must be overcome in field tests for toxins in seawater are the complexity of sample processing and the lack of rugged measurement devices. To overcome these limitations, we are seeking proposals for the development of rapid field test kit for brevetoxins in seawater analogous to the glucose meters commonly used by diabetics. Brevetoxins are potent neurotoxins produced by blooms of the microalga Karenia brevis. When these blooms reach the beach, cells are broken open in the surf zone releasing toxic aerosols which cause respiratory distress.  The consumption of shellfish contaminated with brevetoxins can induce neurotoxic shellfish poisoning.


Currently, when this happens in Florida, the standard protocol is to issue a generic warning is issued at a county to half-county level, despite the fact that many times only specific beaches are adversely affected. The result of the generic warning is that it leads to unnecessary economic losses when people avoid beach areas which are actually safe. To address these issues, NOAA is developing a comprehensive monitoring system which will allow brevetoxin testing of each potentially affected beach in Florida every day to protect human health and reduce economic losses. Consequently, there is a need for rapid, easy to use, rugged and inexpensive detection methodologies which allow toxins to be measured onsite.


The goal of this solicitation is to develop a low-cost, easy-to-use sampling system to enable a sustainable volunteer monitoring program (lifeguards, others) that tests daily for the presence of brevetoxin at every beach along the entire FL west coast.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

Develop a plan to fabricate a portable, low-cost, easy-to-use detection system for detection of the algal toxins brevetoxin-2, -3 in seawater containing toxic Karenia brevis cells.


The test kit must provide:


·         A rapid method for processing seawater samples containing toxic K. brevis cells prior to analysis.

·         Ability to measure toxin in the seawater at levels found when 50,000 to 1,000,000 K. brevis cells are present in the water column. A toxic K. brevis cell contains on average 10 to 16 femtograms of brevetoxins-2, -3 per cell.  The assay sensitivity will therefore depend on the amount of sample that has to be processed.  The smaller the volume required for processing, the more feasible the assay will be for application in the field. It is estimated that the lower sensitivity will be in the 0.3 parts per billion range or lower.

·         Demonstration that the assay signal is proportional to the number of cells extracted over the concentration range from 50,000 to 1,000,000 K. brevis cells per liter.

·         Sample and analysis time of less than 15 minutes.

·         A per-sample cost between $8 and $15.

·         An internal control to assure quality assurance.

·         Demonstration that the reagents used in the assay are stable for at least 3 months if stored properly.  Note: the reagents will ultimately be used on the beach so a discussion of how the proposed reagents would need to be stored and handled to make the assay feasible and reliable in a high temperature, high humidity environment is a required element in the response to the RFP.

·         Digital readout of the results preferable.

·         An analyzer/output/reader device costing less than $500 per unit.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Demonstrate the fabrication of a test-kit that will meet the Phase I requirements.

·         Demonstrate accuracy and repeatability of the test-kits with at least 50 samples verified by independent analysis to meet the accuracy requirements in Phase I.

·         Provide a commercialization plan to fabricate and deliver the test-kits on a cost-basis specified in the Phase I requirements. 

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