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article imageEuropean Union commissions bioterrorism assay

By Tim Sandle     May 19, 2017 in Health
Madrid - There are many terrorist threats facing the world. Perhaps the most terrifying is a biological weapon given the extent of its potential spread, such as though air or waterways. Researchers are developing a new assay to detect such threats.
Bioterrorism refers to a form of terrorism involving the release of biological agents. These bio-weapons could be bacteria, viruses, or toxins; and they could be in a natural form or modified in a laboratory. An example of a bioterror weapon is anthrax, caused by the organism Bacillus anthracis.
With the new attempt to monitor for bioterrorism, scientists in Spain are developing a highly sensitive and specific solid-phase optical assay. The aim is to use this to detect a potential biowarfare agent called Yersinia pestis (the bacterium that causes the plague). Human infection as a result of Yersinia pestis takes three main forms: pneumonic, septicemic and bubonic plagues. Each type has been responsible for high-mortality epidemics throughout human history.
Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis  which causes bubonic plague  on proventricular spin...
Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
The aim with the new assay is to detect the bacterium from samples in less than an hour, which will significantly increase the time for emergency services to instigate quarantine measures. The test method is an enzyme-linked oligonucleotide assay and it was developed by Ioanis Katakis and Ciara K. O’Sullivan who are based at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili’s Interfibio Research Group, and the ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies).
The assay uses primers to amplify both single- and double-stranded Y. pestis DNA. The amplification creates millions of copies of the bacterium’s genetic code and this allows for the rapid detection. This is a form of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a common method used in molecular biology. What the researchers have succeeded in doing is taking this technology and producing a test that is both accurate, fast and reproducible.
Further details about the assay are shown in the video below:
The new assay is described in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, under the heading “Isothermal solid-phase amplification system for detection of Yersinia pestis.”
More about Bioterrorism, Plague, Bacteria, Terrorism
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