Current standoff detection systems determine the presence of biological particles based on their optical and physical properties. However, these rapid detection systems are non-specific in nature, determining only that a biological particle is there, but not its identity. Antibody- and nucleic acid-based point detectors, on the other hand, are capable of specific identification, but can detect only a limited number of targets for which appropriate reagents have been developed and deployed. Therefore there exists a technology gap that calls for biodetection that is more targeted than the continuous particle monitors, but more rapid and broad-based than the specific detection methods. To address this challenge, we are developing screening systems to recognize broad categories of microbial targets (including both known and unknown targets) and provide information useful in allowing more targeted follow-on testing and decision-making. For this purpose, we are utilizing antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) as biological recognition molecules. AMPs comprise a unique group of naturally occurring biomolecules that bind to and disrupt cellular membrane structures of broad categories of bacteria, fungi, and some enveloped viruses. We are using the broad selectivity of these molecules to recognize and detect different families of microbes, as a preliminary screening method to determine the presence of virtually any microbe; while not providing unequivocal identification, AMP-based assays can detect microbial anomalies (e.g., presence of an unexpected increase in microbial load), discriminate between different types of microbes, and provide information on the category of microbes detected such that more appropriate tests for follow-on identification can be used.