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Abbott's Ibis Technology Identified Fatal Disease Organism in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, at the American Society for Microbiology Conference on Biodefense and Emerging Diseases, scientists from Abbott Molecular presented data showing the unique power of the company's Ibis technology to identify and further characterize unknown disease-causing pathogens to help aid in the bioforensic analysis of pandemic outbreaks.  

In a presentation at the conference, Tim Motley, principal scientist, Ibis Biosciences, a subsidiary of Abbott (NYSE: ABT), reported on genotypic characterization of Yersina pestis after a severe outbreak of an unknown disease in Afghanistan's Nimorz Province in December 2007.  Eighty-three people experienced severe fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and 17 died.  All had consumed camel meat.  Due to the gastrointestinal symptoms and disease severity, anthrax was suspected.

Blood from a patient sample and several camel tissue specimens were analyzed using the Ibis T5000 biosensor, a precursor to the PLEX-ID™ system developed and marketed by Abbott.  The analysis showed both the blood and camel tissue specimens tested positive for Yersina pestis, the causative agent for plague.  This was the first reported case of plague in Afghanistan.  Other test methods, including culture, had failed to identify the causative organism.  

"With the PLEX-ID technology, we were able to genetically characterize the strain, identify its unique genetic structure and develop a microbial forensic marker that could be used to identify this strain should future outbreaks occur," said Motley.  He added that the ability of PLEX-ID to combine polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry allows laboratories to identify an unknown organism and determine its specific genotype.

Motley explained that the Afghanistan case shows the broad applicability of PLEX-ID technology for use in identifying and characterizing infectious agents before they become widespread.  


Currently intended for non-diagnostic use, PLEX-ID is the only high-throughput technology that offers rapid and broad identification, detailed genotyping and characterization, and recognition of emerging organisms. The system employs a combination of molecular technologies, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for gene amplification and mass spectrometry analysis to rapidly characterize known and unknown organisms.  

It is designed to address a significant unmet need by providing test results in less than eight hours instead of three or more days required with current blood and tissue culture-based methods.

PLEX-ID is designed to identify a broad range of bacteria, viruses, fungi, certain parasites, and also provide information about drug resistance, virulence, and strain type.  Anticipated public health and biodefense applications include epidemiologic research and identification of emerging or previously unknown agents.  In addition, the system is being used for forensic characterization of human samples.

In 2009, PLEX-ID was recognized by both The Scientist and the Wall Street Journal as top scientific innovations of the year.  The Scientist honored the system because it can detect and characterize a broad range of microorganisms in any given sample.  The Journal selected PLEX-ID as its Gold winner of the 2009 Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards because it promises to alert health officials to new disease strains, may also guard against bio-terrorism, and enable hospitals to identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria in its environment.

Since its development in 2005, PLEX-ID technology has been deployed in 20 sites around the United States, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About Abbott

Abbott is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics.  The company employs nearly 90,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries.

Abbott information is available on the company's Web site at

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