There is a risk of contamination of surgical instruments by infectious protein residues, in particular, prions which are the agents for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans. They are exceptionally resistant to conventional sterilization, therefore it is important to detect their presence as contaminants so that alternative cleaning procedures can be applied. We describe the development of an optimized detection system for fluorescently labelled protein, suitable for in-hospital use. We show that under optimum conditions the technique can detect ~10 attomole/cm2 with a scan speed of ~3-10 cm2/s of the test instrument's surface. A theoretical analysis and experimental measurements will be discussed. © 2006 IOP Publishing Ltd.