An Australian biotechnology company says it has developed a scanner that can detect anthrax spores sealed in envelopes and packages within three seconds. Brisbane-based Elan Bio developed the scanner in response to the deaths of five people from anthrax infection in the US in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The spores had been placed in mail. 'We could produce a hand-held version which could be used by soldiers out in the desert, for instance, or a larger version which could be installed on mail room conveyor belts,' said company spokeswoman Michelle Connelly. She said the original research had been aimed at developing a scanner to identify different fruits and vegetables at supermarket checkouts. The scanner uses electromagnetic technology to detect the molecular structure of substances. The company says the device can distinguish between household powders and deadly spores within three seconds.