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Blog posts tagged with 'Informant'

AdVntures in Mycotoxicology - A Beginners Guide

Informant 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Test

Being able to understand the differences in determining what constitutes the definition of Fungus, Mold, Mildew, Algae or even something basic as Slime can be a bit confusing. Some of these differences can be determined by taking a few moments to ‘look under the hood’ and see what these species are composed of and why they are given their own unique identification. You will want to pay close attention to the following lesson since there will be a test… Just kidding.

When it comes to understanding differences in a species it is always best to understand how to define them in order to know what sets each of them apart. In the case of Fungus, Mold, Mildew, and Algae this is of the utmost importance since the relationship of each is almost closely associated with the other either through mis-identification or by sharing true similarities.

Let us begin with gaining a understanding of Fungus, what exactly is it and how is it defined. Fungus or its’ plural Fungi is defined as any diverse group of eukaryotic single-celled or multi-nucleate organisms that live by decomposing and absorbing the organic material in which they grow. Think of the ‘Pods’ from ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’. OK, maybe not to that extreme but it does hint at one of Fungi’s more pervasive attributes of proliferation which we will cover shortly. Fungus is comprised of several genii of different species such as Mushroom, Molds, Mildew, Smuts, Rusts, and Yeasts. Fungus itself is considered to be of the kingdom Plantae. As we learned in our high school science class that eukaryotic means …“any organism having as its fundamental structural unit a cell type that contains a specialized organelles in the cytoplasm, a membrane-bound nucleus enclosing genetic material organized into chromosomes and an elaborate system of division by mitosis or meiosis, characteristic of all life forms except bacteria and blue-green algae and other primitive micro-organisms” so I know I won’t need to spend time explaining the definition so we can tackle more of the interesting concepts that lay before us. To refresh your memory of what you learned in your science lab, mitosis is the usual method of cell division and meiosis is the process of gamete formation, consisting of chromosome conjugation and a two cell division. After all, gamete formation is something we live with every day and should all be used to by now. As you have already learned, Mold and Mildew have been mentioned as being a part of the Fungi family and Fungus as a whole is not only a family but a royal one belonging to a kingdom. Now that’s impressive.

Now let’s move on to gaining a deeper understanding of Algae. I can sense your excitement about this and I totally understand. Algae is something of a horse of a different color and is defined as “any numerous groups of chlorophyll containing mainly aquatic eukaryotic organisms ranging from microscopic single-celled forms to multi-cellular forms that are able to grow 100 feet or more, this growth is distinguished from plants by the absence of having roots, stems, and leaves as they are defined and by a lack of nonproductive cells in the reproductive structures: Classified into six phyla Euglenophyta, Crysophyta, Pyrrophyta, Chlorophyta , Phaeophyta and Rhodophyta.” Did you notice there is no kingdom for this horse? The singular pronouncement is Alga. Alga is a latin word meaning ‘Seaweed’ and this meaning is retained in its’ translation so if you know your latin, then this is something you already knew so go to the head of the class. Now the next time you are in a Chinese restaurant and they serve you up a bowl of seaweed soup, be sure to ask for a side of Alga. You will be the life of the party.

Now do I really need to define Slime? What would any meaningful discussion be without it? Slime is defined as that gelatinous goo that shows up in the best creature feature and “is composed of a thin, glutinous mud, or any ropy (that being stringy) or viscous liquid matter or a viscous secretion of animal or vegetable origin.” Let’s face it, what would a jaw retracting space alien be without slime?

So now it is understood that there is a big difference in Fungus and Algae and both mold and mildew are related in a fuzzy, smelly, unwanted growth kind of way. Not unlike reality TV, only more interesting and includes slime as one of the main characters, although now it’s seems, slime, which can be found on fungus and algae may be considered a byproduct and not its own species.

Alas we have opened the proverbial “hood” so it’s timefor us to continue to dig a little deeper into the the fungus side of things. Beginning with the infamous and ever present Mold, “a growth of minute fungi forming on vegetable or animal matter (aka, organic), and usually appears as a downy or furry coating, and requires decay or dampness. ” The proper English spelling is written as mould and we all know the English are funny that way. With Mildew the difference gets to be a little more fuzzy in more ways then one. Defined as “a disease of plants, characterized by a cottony, usually whitish coating on the surface of affected parts, caused by any of various fungi, aka mold, and can include any discolorations which appear on fabrics, paper, leather, ect. When…and this is most important…exposed to moisture. ” Emphasis added and you may now consider yourself enlightened. But wait, it gets even better!…again…just kidding.

Molds include all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multi-cellular filaments called hyphae. This is unlike another fungi that grow as a single cell which are commonly called yeast. The hypae form a connected network of tubular branches, it has DNA and is considered a single organism referred to as a colony or in more technical terms a mycelium. Molds do not form a specific taxonomic or phylogenetic grouping, but can be found in the divisions Zygomycota, Deureromycota and Ascomycota. I often tell people I am phylogenetic just to see the worried look on their faces. Then I cough and watch the fun unravel.

Although some molds can cause disease, three species have been singled out by the CDC to have this evil superpower. Now there are other types of Fungus that can cause health issues as well, but for now we will concentrate on the Mold part of the kingdom. Some molds can cause food spoilage and others are actually useful in bio-degrading or in producing edible food products, beverages, antibiotic, and enzymes. There are thousands of known varieties of mold and their primary energy source is organic matter which is broken down by enzymes released from the mycelia (you know, the hyphae) into simple compounds decomposing organic matter enabling decay and rot necessary in all eco systems (that’s were the bio-degradable properties kick in). The enzymes and ‘mycotoxins’ that are a byproduct of this breakdown process can also prevent or compete with other molds and micro-organisms making them competitive for territory and will keep other mold types or plants from growing. In the case of Black Mold, it is these ‘mycotoxins’ that can cause harm to human health. Molds do not require or need sunlight to receive energy, another thing that distinguishes this from other plant species.

Now for a word of warning for the more sensitive reader’s, the next portion of this lesson discusses the reproductive characteristics of our topic and we will be getting all up in to the private lives of mold so it is permissible for those who are sensitive to close your eyes during this portion of our study.

Mold reproduces asexually through small spores, which can remain airborne indefinitely. Spores are hardy little buggers and can survive in the most extreme environments. Some mold can even grow at temperature lows such as 2 degrees Celsius. When conditions do not promote mold growth, (even though an environment that is only 2 degrees Celsius does not seem to very promotional for growth), molds can remain alive but in a dormant state for a very long time in the harshest conditions. This is how mold growth can suddenly appear inside building structures long after the building was completed. Moving air is not conducive to mold growth since this tends to cause a lower humidity. Remember, moisture is key here. Since mold must grow on organic matter, their presence is only visible to the naked eye where conditions have allowed colonies to grow and proliferate. Molds come in a variety of colors but gray, green, white and black are the most common and it is important to note that color does not define any one species. Black Mold does not necessarily have to be black to be Black Mold, a common mistake.

If you should toxic have mold ever present in your home then try to get rid of it right away. It is vital that you clean the affected area and throw away any contaminated materials. If there are large areas in your home that are affected, it is recommended you consider a mold remediation service as soon as possible because the longer it grows the more damage it can cause and the more money it will devour. Since mold can be a serious health issue it is also a good idea to know if the growth in your house is toxic or more specifically, ‘mycotoxic’.

It is for this reason AdVnt Biotechnologies LLC, has developed a way to test mold growth with a simple do it yourself test that can be done in the privacy of your home and will reveal if the type of mold growth infesting your home can bring harm to yourself and your family. The INFORMANT 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Test can show results in as little as 3 to 15 minutes after introducing the collected mold sample to the test. Remember, for mold to reach toxic levels it has to come to a stage in its growth cycle that will allow it to release mycotoxin’s through the process of decay as it eats at whatever organic material it is consuming. In homes this can be anything from the papers located on the drywall, wood frames used to fortify walls, carpet, clothing, leather goods, discarded debris in a basement, the list is endless. AdVnt’s ‘INFORMANT 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Test was created using the same advanced bio-technologies being deployed by first responders around the world to detect bio-warfare agents such as Anthrax, Ricin, Botulinum and Plague. Using the same science of applying active antibodies and antigens as genetic markers, AdVnt’s patented technology is designed to react specifically to the target species of black mold as mentioned earlier to be hazardous to human health as determined by the CDC. AdVnt’s INFORMANT 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Test can detect the most minute samples of Stachybotrys, Penicillium and its close cousin Aspergillius.

There is one last subject that we should tackle before dismissing class. Aflatoxin. This toxin is any various related mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus and is suspected of causing liver cancer in humans and other animals. That is the same Aspergillus that can be detected with the INFORMANT 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Test.

The INFORMANT is sold only online from AdVnt Biotechnologie’s website at www.advnt.org. The advantage to using our INFORMANT 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Test means you will know that if your tests show positive for either of these three species that the results will be conclusive and reliable. Since the INFORMANT Uses antigens and antibodies to detect black mold on a genetic level there will be no cross reaction with any other types of mold species or proteins. As an added bonus, each test purchased comes with everything required to run two complete tests.

Hurricane recovery and the added dangers of black mold

In the short time that Hurricane Sandy flooded out many of the homes along the east coast. Sandy survivors were confronted with a multitude of serious issues such as low temperatures, damage to their homes and many other obstacles that is making recovery efforts a major uphill battle. One major issue many of them are being forced to contend with is rapid mold growth in their homes.

The health department states that they are closely monitoring emergency room visits and the hospitalization of those who are suffering respiratory illnesses as a key to determine if the threat of mold infestation is serious enough to warrant aggressive recovery action but is willing to admit there are no set guidelines to follow in the case of evacuating a region hard hit by mold infestation.

It’s important to understand mold reproduction starts when mature mold growth releases spores into the atmosphere. These spores are suspended in the air and are a part of the natural are we breathe on a daily basis and are the common cause of many of the allergies. Local weather stations will often include a mold count on their daily broadcast. The higher the number, the more likely there will be allergy sufferers.

Removing mold spores from any structure is almost impossible to control since the air outside will always find a way to get inside. Air conditioning filters and air purifiers can dramatically reduce the mold count in the environment; however it is almost impossible to completely be mold free.

The big problems with mold inside a building begin with water. Any area inside a structure that is always damp or has standing water is a prime setting for mold spores to collect and proliferate. Once mold spores locate a water source they will settle in and begin to grow. Mold growth can be very rapid in prime conditions therefore it is important at this stage to remove the mold infestation and dry out the infected area and most importantly, remove or bring under control the source of water that allowed the mold to grow. Without removing the source of water, mold will most certainly return.

Since last year, there are about 75,000 scientifically identifiable species of mold with a projection that there may be as many as 1 million fungal species that have yet to be identified. Not all mold species are harmful. Some are even beneficial such as those varieties that produce truffles and the various types that produce edible mushrooms. There is even a species of mold that has been proven capable of devouring toxic petroleum products and leaving behind a completely safe, environmentally friendly growth in its place. It use is currently being considered as a go to answer for cleaning oil spills. Some companies are even looking at mold to produce products such as toilet paper. Go figure.

Identification of a mold species is mostly dependent on costly DNA testing. AdVnt Biotechnologies as developed a black mold test that uses the genetic identifiers of black mold species to help identify toxic black mold from most common mold infestations. The INFORMANT 15-minute black mold test uses licensed antibodies to positively tag black mold spores for positive identification, therefore making sure that it does not show a positive result for more common mold varieties.

Toxic black mold is a species of mold, that if allowed to proliferate can produce a toxic substance known as mycotoxin. It is this substance derived from black mold growth that has been shown to be fatal to humans, especially those who suffer with compromised immune systems. There are to date, 3 known species that are known to produce this toxicity and can become a serious health hazard if left unchecked. Stachybotrys, Aspergillius and its close cousin Penicillium are the three species known to produce mycotoxins. The second requirement for mold growth is oxygen. Where conditions for mold growth are ripe, mycotoxins are produced as the mold expands and spreads into colonies releasing the toxic byproduct into the air. It is import to understand that mycotoxins as a result of growth of black mold is viewed differently than those cases of mycotoxins exposure that causes harm through the ingestion of misidentified mushrooms. In the case of toxicity to humans through mold growth, the victim is often not aware of the hazard until it causes some harm.

AdVnt Biotechnologies INFORMANT 15-Minute black mold detection test was specifically designed to test mold growth found in homes for this highly dangerous species. Each test kit with the items required to run two complete tests. The easy to follow step by step instruction sheet allows users to quickly identify if the mold growth in their homes is of the toxic variety. Waiting days for lab results is now a thing of the past. The INFORMANT 15-Minute black mold detection test can be purchased from our website at www.advnt.org. The INFORMANT Black Mold Detection Test is not available in stores.

The serious issues of black mold growth in the regions hit by hurricane Sandy are not ones to be taken with a grain of salt. Identifying and removing mold infestations are often tied in with a homeowners struggle to obtain the necessary funding in order to properly eradicate the infestation. The longer it takes for relief funding the more serious the situation can become. Complicated paperwork to get federal relief and slow moving insurers and politicians on the take is just a few of the many hurdles the victims of this tragic event will have to face in order to win back their homes and their peace of mind.

Press Release - Informant 15-Minute Black Mold Detection Kit

Press Release

Phoenix, Arizona

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: ADVNT BIOTECHNOLOGIES,LLC
Contact Person: KEVIN BORAH
Company Name: ADVNT BIOTECHNOLOGIES, LLC
Fax Number (623) 879 – 9697
Email Address: http://www.advnt.org/contact/
Web site address:
www.advnt.org

Headline: Arizona Biotech Company Develops a Rapid Test Making The Detection Of Black Mold Simple- In 15 Minutes or Less.

Phoenix, AZ — JUNE 25th, 2010 — AdVnt Biotechnologies, the company that is known for producing BioWarfare Agent Detection Devices for HAZMAT First Response Teams around the globe to help them rapidly detect such biological agents as Anthrax, Ricin and Botulinum fhas just released it’s newest product for In-Home and Professional use. Building on the expertise gained in the international arena o BioWarfare Agent Detection, AdVnt is now applying its’ R&D expertise to help defend against another type of bio threat that could be growing in the walls and under the floorboards in your own home. BLACK MOLD! Now available for the first time from their website at www.advnt.org, AdVnts’ exciting new INFORMANT 15 MINUTE BLACK MOLD DETECTION TEST is now ready to be the first response in helping home owners combat the growing problem of Black Mold with a simple-to-use hand held test that can give results in 15 minutes or less.

The “Informant” is not a culture, settlement plate, a swab collection kit, or an ATP test. The “Informant” is a highly accurate testing technology called immunochromatographic assay, also known as a rapid test or Hand-Held Assay (HHA). Unlike the ATP test, which detects all living cells regardless of what those cells are, the “Informant 15 Minute Black Mold Detection Test” detects only specific sub-species of Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys. These types of black mold are the sub-species that have been determined to be hazardous to human health and welfare.

Mold in the home, of the “black” variety is a slimy dark greenish-black substance. It is most common in damp, moist areas of walls, ceilings and floors. Look for leaky pipes, leaky roofs, damp basements and crawl spaces, high humidity of over 55%, recent flooding, mildew and musty odors, allergy problems, condensation and/or rusting, wall discoloration, growth in grout and around bathroom floors. These are just a few of the signs that black mold may be present. Unfortunately, you cannot identify these species simply by sight. But with Advents’ new Informant 15 Minute Black Mold Detection Test” you can now identify toxic black mold quickly. Environmental testing for black mold in homes and business is critical, as it can be a serious threat to your health.

Last, but not least, the speed and accuracy of the “Informant 15 Minute Black Mold Detection Test” will make it is a desirable tool for the professional in the industry. Its’ very fast, specific and accurate performance is due to the very special patented monoclonal antibodies that AdVnt uses to create each test. This makes the test ideal for use in construction, remediation, real estate and insurance industries. So whether you are a home owner wanting to insure the health and safety of your family, or a working professional who knows the importance of having an early, rapid detection capability to help with making crucial decisions when confronted with black mold issues, the Informant is ready to be put to the test.

If you are interested in giving the Informant 15-minute Black Mold Detection Test a try, visit AdVnt Biotechnologies’ website at www.advnt.org and click on buy now under the Informant label.

For more information please visit Advnts’ website at http://www.advnt.org or

Contact http://www.advnt.org/contact/

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It Creeps, It Crawls, it climbs on walls...

For movie fans, this line may bring back memories of a popular 1950′s science fiction movie starring the late great actor Steve McQueen called “The Blob”. In this creature feature a grey slimy glob of space goo from outer space falls to earth with a voracious appetite and proceeds to eat on the denizens of small town USA. As the creature consumes its unwilling victims it takes on the form of a big red glob of goo, hence the making of the creative title. This cosmic space sludge would slowly and methodically ooze its way through floorboards, sink drains, walls and air vents allowing it to sneak up on its unsuspecting victims, cover them up and ingest them. What’s interesting about ‘The Blob’ is that it uses the same exact modes of home invasion as does toxic Black Mold. Areas in homes that have been damp for long periods of time are susceptible to Black Mold spores taking root and settling in and spreading throughout a household as quietly and efficiently has ‘The Blob’. And since it is not a big red glob with molecular stability issues but microscopic airborne spores that can be everywhere and not even be seen, the idea of Black Mold could even be considered more threatening. This concept was not lost on Hollywood either, other such fungi infested features sprung to life in those no to distant days of Hollywood, The classic British yarn “Day of the Triffids” featured cannibalistic space plants that grew out of a space based fungus and the popular “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” were also banking on the fear of the unseen flesh devouring microbes to bring home the box office shivers.

Most recently in the film “The Happening” a mysterious ‘Red Fungus’ comes out of nowhere to cause entire populations of individuals to suddenly have a desire to commit suicide. This of course wrecks havoc on the day-to-day activities of it’s bewildered cast and a ten-dollar hole in the wallets of the unlucky masses that filed in to see this drama play out on a big screen. Unlike the cosmic invaders of yester year, this time the threat is explained as a defense mechanism built into the earth’s eco-system to help maintain a natural balance to human over population, making it an even greater ‘Inconvenient Truth’.

Although we may never see a horror film from Hollywood featuring the horrifically nasty black crawling slime known as “BLACK MOLD” (music builds to crescendo), the amount of damage that this primordial black substance can bring to an unsuspecting household, or an unknowing bystander can be just as horrific. Sometimes reality can be stranger then fiction and the devastation that can come from simple environmental fungi is no exception. Aside from the harsh impact it can have on health and finances, Black Mold has been known to take out more buildings then a man in a rubber Godzilla suit. Millions of dollars are lost every year to buildings that have to be destroyed because no one realized until it was too late that Black Mold, hiding behind walls, growing under floorboards and crawling through vents, had been growing undetected in the dark places. Now, thanks to Hollywood, we all know about those dark places, and it knows what scares you.

Then there’s the innocent victims who sit quietly at home watching a large fish consume unsuspecting beach goers in “Human Sushi II” while microscopic mold spores are unknowingly inhaled into their lungs and up their nostrils causing their immune systems to go to defcon 5. Then after several days, they find themselves short of breath, congested, sore throat, nausea, and suffering from memory loss or screen writer’s block. Many of them will make costly medical visits and consume large amounts of over the counter medications that will at best temporarily alleviate the symptoms but never really cure anything. But then a select few may discover the cause of their woes and respond, but countless others will be trapped in a vicious cycle of ongoing health conditions and over medicated futures.

Then, suddenly, ‘in a world’ where all seems lost, one hero takes the stage, armed with a small plastic device; he single handedly takes on the unseen perpetrator and exposes it for what it is. AdVnt Biotechnologies’ new INFORMANT Black Mold Detection Test as the power to turn innocent victims into well informed problem solvers. With one simple device that can expose the villainous Black Mold Spores in the privacy and comfort of one’s own home, you can now take back control of your health, and save your home from uncertain destruction and save the day with a simple and easy to use tool designed to give rapid results within the time it takes to turn off a cell phone. The INFORMANT is a Hand Held Assay, not unlike a pregnancy test, specifically test positive for the presence of the three types of Black Mold spores and their subspecies that are known by the CDC to create health issues. Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, and Penicillium. Using patented antibodies, each test can show reactivity within 15 minutes or less and can be stored for up to 2 years. AdVnt Biotechnology is one of the leading manufactures of Hand Held Assays used by Home Land Security and First Response Teams worldwide. Rapid Biowarfare Detection is what they do. For years they have helped save countless lives from the biowarfare agents such as Anthrax, Ricin, and Botulinum released by terrorist on unsuspecting civilians in devious plots more sinister then anything dreamed up on a soundstage. Now they have applied their expertise to a different kind of threat on the home front with their new INFORMANT 15 Minute Black Mold Detection Test. Now we won’t need another hero.

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Be prepared with 'Informant'

Mold is a functioning part of an environmental ecosystem, playing an important part in the breakdown and decay of dead organic matters such as fallen leaves or dead trees. But when mold manages to grow indoors, it can place a serious strain on both human health and household finances. Mold spreads by producing tiny spores that are invisible to the naked eye. These microscopic spores float through the air and are then ingested or inhaled. When these tiny spores locate a moist area they take root and start to grow. There are many types of mold, none can survive without a constant source of water.

Once Mold sets in and begins to proliferate in the home environment. Black Mold is a type of mold that has been proven to have serious effects on human health. Black Mold is a mycotoxin, during the digestion of organic matter, the fungi secrete enzymes into nutrients in order to break down complex compounds into simpler compounds that can be ingested by the mold and used as nutrition. These digested nutrients produce secondary metabolic waste called mycotoxins that are released to give the mold a competitive edge over other organisms. Inhaling or coming into contact with black mold or black mold spores can produce severe cold or flu like symptoms, including running nose, itching, red or watery eyes, fatigue, memory loss, excessive mucous discharge, dermatitis, skin rash, stomach upset, harsh allergic reactions and more. Symptoms may be immediate or build up slowly over a period time. Those who already have taxed immune systems or are asthmatic may be at a higher risk of infections but healthy individuals are in no way immune. Research is still being done to determine just how far reaching exposure to black mold has on human health, but studies show that the negative effects are far reaching. For more detailed information consult a health professional or your state and local health departments.

Once it is discovered that there is black mold in your living environment, it is important to totally eradicate it. Floating, airborne spores come from outdoors, on pets, or on hair and clothing of individuals who enter in from outside. Ventilation systems and open windows are also open pathways and allow for spore invasion. However, these spores will not take root and become active unless there is a source of longstanding moisture present in the home. If there is black mold found growing in a home, repair the source of the moisture and clean the affected area and allow it to dry thoroughly. Dispose of any infested materials such as wood, porous tiles and drywall. If the moisture is not removed black mold can grow back. Molds can grow on cloth, carpets, leather, wood, sheetrock, insulation and pantry foods. It is a myth that mold can only grow in dark places. All molds that appear black are not of this dangerous variety, it’s hard to differentiate among them without The InFormant 15 Minute Black Mold Detection Kit (Formerly known as AdVantage). Regardless of the type of mold you may have, the Center for Disease Control recommends removing it as soon as possible from your living or working environment. The ‘Informant’ Black Mold Detection kit currently being developed by AdVnt Biotechnologies is specifically designed to detect Black Mold in your home in an easy to use hand held device that can detect the presence of Mold in 15 minutes or less. AdVnt Biotechnologies is currently wrapping up development of the Informant Mold detection system and is looking to launch this exciting new product sometime in the middle to late June. Be sure to visit http://www,advnt.org and stay InFormed.

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The Silent threat at home

Bioterrorism can come at us in ways we can’t imagine. From that pesky geo-political terrorist to the silent enemies hiding within our own home, the threat of global biowarfare has become an ongoing ever-changing organism. In the wake of the nations crippling healthcare crisis, the need to be concerned for ones health is now more then ever more important for individuals to do all that they can to ensure their own personal well being as well as that of their own families. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as reported that the presence of black mold in a home can cause a multitude of health related illness beginning with but not limited to respiratory illnesses, memory loss, chronic fatigue, dizziness, the list goes on. Those who have Asthma, HIV, or have challenged immune systems are at an even greater risk. Add to this the understanding that Mold can be undetected in your home, hiding in vents; behind walls and under floorboards, the infestation becomes even more life threatening. Soon AdVnt Biotechnologies will bring its bioterrorism expertise closer to the home front with its new ‘Informant’ in home mold detection system. Informant is a personal, easy to use mold detection kit that will allow the concerned homeowner a way to reliably and safely test for the presence of black mold in their living environment. Expected for release in mid to late May, Informant could be the first line of defense against the ever-increasing cost of healthcare.

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