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Pitt-led researchers create quick, simple fluorescent detector for TB
Date:3/19/2009

PITTSBURGHResearchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have developed an onsite method to quickly diagnose tuberculosis (TB) and expose the deadly drug-resistant strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis that can mingle undetected with treatable strains. The researchers engineered bacteriophagestiny viruses that attack bacteriato inject TB bacteria with a glowing, fluorescent-green protein. They report their findings in the March 19 edition of PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed online journal from the Public Library of Science.

The method must next undergo clinical trials, but it has potential as a valuable, timesaving tool in rural African areas besieged by TB, explained the paper's senior author Graham Hatfull, chair and Eberly Family Professor of Biological Sciences in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences. Hatfull conducted the research with Professor William Jacobs Jr. of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York and Pitt postdoctoral fellow Mariana Piuri.

"A report from South Africa showed that the extensively drug-resistant TB strains can kill within 16 days, on average," Hatfull said. "In rural Africa, it takes too long to collect samples, send them off, do the test, and have the data sent back. Clinicians need rapid, relatively cheap, and simple methods for detecting TB and drug-resistant strains at the local clinic. This test provides a quick diagnosis so the patient can be isolated and treated."

The group constructed bacteriophages specific to TB that have a green fluorescence protein (GFP) implanted in their genome. Bacteriophages spread by injecting their DNA into bacterial cellsin this case the GFP gene accompanies the DNA into the TB cell, causing the cell to glow. A clinician can detect the GFP's glow with equipment available at many clinics.

Besides quick diagnosis, the test also could be used
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Contact: Morgan Kelly
mekelly@pitt.edu
412-624-4356
University of Pittsburgh
Source:Eurekalert

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