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Researchers develop new ultrasensitive assay to detect most poisonous substance known
Date:5/1/2008

DUARTE, Calif. -- Scientists at City of Hope and the California Department of Public Health have developed a new ultrasensitive assay to detect botulinum neurotoxin. The toxin is one of the most poisonous substances known that can cause life-threatening disease, and is considered a major potential bioterrorism threat agent. The research teams work is published today in the online journal PLoS ONE (http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0002041).

Botulinum neurotoxin is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. When ingested, the toxin disables nerve function and can result in paralysis and even death. Botulism normally results when a person eats food tainted with C. botulinum bacteria or if a wound is infected by the bacterium. Infants, whose digestive systems are not yet fully developed, also are susceptible to the disease if the bacterium gains a foothold in their intestinal tract. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify botulinum neurotoxin as one of six maximum threat bioterrorism agents due to its potency, lethality and ease of production and transport. One gram of botulinum toxin could kill more than 1 million people, according to a 2001 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The new test is at least ten thousand times more sensitive and produces results much faster than the current detection method for botulinum neurotoxin, said Markus Kalkum, Ph.D., assistant professor, Division of Immunology, City of Hope, and lead researcher in the study. Wide use of the new assay would improve food safety and food processing technology, speed up and improve the diagnosis and treatment of human disease, advance the development of novel therapeutics, and greatly enhance the countrys ability to detect and defend against a bioterrorism attack.

The collaborative research team developed a test that is less expensive, faster and easier to perform than c
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Contact: Shawn Le
sle@coh.org
800-888-5323
Public Library of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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