DNA testing kits are set to be used by the US army to detect substances used in biological warfare.

The US Department of Defense has started trials using portable equipment which can test DNA samples and identify whether they contain one of 10 biological agents. Developed by UK firm Genedrive, the test is said to give results within two hours and could allow military personnel to detect the use of infectious diseases in warfare without having to send samples off for testing in a laboratory.

David Budd, Genedrive’s chief executive, said the firm had worked with the US government to develop this technology in a $7.8 million project.

He said: “We’re very proud that the US government came to the UK for this technology. It does not happen very often. They have had a lot of input on the design.”

The Genedrive kit is around the size of a paperback book and weighs 1kg. It has already been used to identify cases of tuberculosis in India.

And the company is working on developing further tests so the machine can be used to test for other infectious diseases.

Phone attachment designed to help doctors

Meanwhile, scientists have created an attachment for smartphones which can test DNA to help doctors diagnose their patients. Developed by three institutions working in partnership – the University of California, Stockholm University and Uppsala University – the piece of portable kit is designed to allow medical professionals to look at an individual’s DNA to help them work out what is wrong and offer the most appropriate treatment.

Professor Mats Nilsson told the BBC: “In cancer, where certain mutations in tumours confer resistance to drugs, it can be used to prescribe the right treatments. And in infectious diagnostics, it’s the fastest way to work out if an infection is viral or bacterial, and, if it’s bacteria, to figure out if it carries antibiotic resistant genes or not.”

Advances in technology mean DNA testing is now used in a variety of ways from helping to solve crimes to establishing someone’s risk of developing certain diseases. But one of its most well-known uses is to establish whether or not two people are biologically related to each other.

AlphaBiolabs offers the fastest DNA testing in the world, delivering accurate results the next working day as standard. Paternity tests can identify whether a man is the father of a child but there are also a range of other relationship DNA tests which can recognise whether there is a family relationship between two individuals.

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