Caister Academic Press

Rapid Detection of Bioterror Agents

Andreas Nitsche
from: Real-Time PCR in Microbiology: From Diagnosis to Characterization (Edited by: Ian M. Mackay). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2007)


The detection of infectious agents is one of the most important tasks in the modern diagnostic laboratory. Many PCR-based methods for clinically relevant infectious agents have been implemented in routine diagnostics during recent years. However, due to the discussions about biowarfare and possible bioterrorist attacks, an arsenal of additional agents now has to be identified in a rapid and reliable manner by the diagnostic laboratory. In recent years, natural infections with pathogens such as Yersinia pestis or Bacillus anthracis have occurred only sporadically in humans and their diagnosis was restricted to selected expert laboratories. Since the anthrax letter attacks in 2001 the further abuse of these pathogens for bioterror is feared and their identification has become a routine task in expert laboratories. Similarly, variola virus, which was eradicated by a global vaccination program at the end of the last century, has not been considered as a realistic infectious threat for the last 25 years. But today, variola virus is the most dangerous viral candidate for bioterrorism and diagnosis and the treatment and prevention of poxvirus infections are of heightened public interest. These re-emerging pathogens have posed no global danger to the human population until recently therefore methods to verify their presence have not been developed during recent decades. Real-time PCR based methods are promising to fill this gap rapidly. This chapter gives a brief summary of the present applications of real-time PCR for the diagnosis of infectious agents of bioterrorism read more ...
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