Detection of Airborne Pathogens and Toxins
Pathogens are disease-producing microorganisms. Bacteria, mycoplasma, rickettsia, fungi and viruses are among the naturally occurring pathogens. Toxins are poisons produced through the metabolic activities of living organisms. They are organic compounds, such as proteins, polypeptides and alkaloids, that come from a variety of biological sources. Pathogens and toxins are normal constituents of the environment. However, industrial processes for fermentation and synthesis are capable of producing large quantities of pathogens and toxins for release into the environment by military or terrorist actions. The human body is vulnerable to injury from harmful exposures to environmental pathogens and toxins. Identification and quantification of these pathogens and toxins are important for protecting the body from such injuries by promptly initiating countermeasures or therapeutic regimens. Some of the environmental pathogens and toxins have been described and discussed in other chapters of this book. In this chapter, the chemical, physiochemical, biochemical and immunochemical principles serving as the basis for the detection of pathogens and toxins are reviewed and some of the technological applications of these principles to their detection are described.