Normally, in case of a suspected anthrax attack, emergency workers cordon off the area and collect samples for identification.
However, there is always the risk of spreading the pores or lofting them into the air.
Consequently, cleaning up is also very fiddly: the liquid and foam disinfectants used are hard to contain, and since it is difficult to tell how far the spores have spread, ensuring all potential contamination is treated, can do extensive damage to environment and property.
On the other hand, the ectoplasm reduces the chances of people getting infected, as the antibodies in the gel form clumps with the anthrax spores that are too large to become airborne or enter the lungs.
Furthermore, since it transforms into a gel the instant it is sprayed, it can be blanketed over a wide area without spreading and then scraped off afterwards, says Grant Rawlin of Anadis in Melbourne, Australia, the company that is developing the gel with support from the Australian government.
"We call it 'Project Ectoplasm' after Ghostbusters," says Rawlin.
Rawlin said the key to developing the gel was the discovery of a cheap source of anthrax antibodies, which are usually extracted from genetically engineered bacteria or animal blood.
But since this yields only small amounts, Anadis extracted them from colostrum, the antibody-rich milk that animals produce for a short time after giving birth, Rawlin said.
By collecting colostrum from cows that have been given routine anthrax vaccines, Anadis obtained large amounts of anthrax antibodies, which it dissolved in the water-rich polymer mix to make up the ectoplasm, New Scientist quoted Rawlin as saying.