Detecting Bioterrorism Threats



October 30, 2017

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  • Researchers in Spain are using RPA as the foundation for a highly sensitive and specific solid-phase optical assay that can detect the potential biowarfare agent, Y. pestis, in less than an hour. The enzyme-linked oligonucleotide assay (ELONA) approach developed by Ioanis Katakis and Ciara K. O’Sullivan, at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili’s Interfibio Research Group, and the ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies), uses conventional PCR primers to amplify both single- and double-stranded Y. pestis DNA. Their work provides proof of concept for applying RPA in a heterogeneous format, with one primer immobilized onto a solid surface. The researchers aim to further develop the technology into an integrated, portable lateral flow-type test device for the rapid amplification and detection of Y. pestis in resource limited and field settings. Y. pestis causes bubonic and pneumonic plague, and is lethal in up to 60% of cases that don’t receive swift treatment. The organism is considered by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to represent a potential biowarfare agent. Although prompt diagnosis of Y. pestis infection facilitates expedited treatment, the current gold standard for detecting plague is time consuming, and involves bacterial isolation. The quantitative detection method reported by Ioanis Katakis and colleagues exploits RPA to enable amplification of Y.pestis DNA in 30 minutes, and visual detection within the hour.

    Analytical TechniquesDiagnosticsEnvironmental ScienceMolecular Biology

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