Anthrax Detector Developed

Aug 16, 2006

Spores of the dreaded Bacillus anthracis have already been used as a bioweapon against the civilian population. Once inhaled, the anthrax pathogen almost always leads to death if the victims are not treated within 24 to 48 hours. Rapid and accurate diagnosis is thus vital.

A team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, the Swiss Tropical Institute, and the University of Bern has now developed a new immunological approach that can be used to specifically recognize anthrax spores.

A number of tests for the diagnosis of anthrax already exist, including some highly accurate but also extremely complex, time-consuming, and expensive genetic methods. In contrast, immunological tests are very simple; however, it has not yet been possible to develop a truly reliable immunoassay. The similarity of the anthrax spore surface to the spores of other bacteria that commonly occur in humans has been a major problem: previous anthrax antibodies were not sufficiently specific.

Some time ago, a special carbohydrate consisting of four sugar components was discovered on the surface of anthrax spores. This carbohydrate contains a sugar component that occurs nowhere else and has been named anthrose. Peter H. Seeberger and his team targeted this carbohydrate as their point of attack.

In order to produce antibodies against a molecule, one first needs a large enough amount of the molecule in question, or antigen. However, it is exceptionally difficult to isolate a carbohydrate bound to the surface of a cell in its pure form. Seeberger and his team thus chose an alternative route: they synthesized the carbohydrate in the laboratory, attached it to a special “carrier” protein and injected this compound into mice. The carrier protein stimulated an immunological reaction, which is normally rather weak for carbohydrate antigens. The researchers were then able to obtain monoclonal antibodies from these immunized mice. These antibodies were found to bind very specifically to anthrax spores; in contrast, they do not react to bacteria closely related to Bacillus anthracis.

“Our results demonstrate that small differences in the carbohydrates on cell surfaces can be used to obtain specific immune reagents,” says Seeberger. “Our new antibodies will be used as the basis for highly sensitive anthrax diagnosis and will contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches.”

Citation: Peter Seeberger et al., Anti-Carbohydrate Antibodies for the Detection of Anthrax Spores, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.20062048

Source: Angewandte Chemie

Explore further: A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

2 hours ago

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

CloudFlare tackles lost SSL key risk with Keyless SSL

2 hours ago

Organizations looking for and concerned about optimal security protection are the targets of a new service announced by San Francisco-based CloudFlare. The offering is called Keyless SSL. CloudFlare explained ...

New hadrosaur noses into spotlight

2 hours ago

Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs – a newly discovered hadrosaur with a truly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State Univer ...

Recommended for you

A refined approach to proteins at low resolution

2 hours ago

Membrane proteins and large protein complexes are notoriously difficult to study with X-ray crystallography, not least because they are often very difficult, if not impossible, to crystallize, but also because ...

Base-pairing protects DNA from UV damage

4 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have discovered a further function of the base-pairing that holds the two strands of the DNA double helix together: it plays a crucial role in protecting ...

Smartgels are thicker than water

5 hours ago

Transforming substances from liquids into gels plays an important role across many industries, including cosmetics, medicine, and energy. But the transformation process, called gelation, where manufacturers ...

Separation of para and ortho water

Sep 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Not all water is equal—at least not at the molecular level. There are two versions of the water molecule, para and ortho water, in which the spin states of the hydrogen nuclei are different. ...

User comments : 0