Real-time detection of pathogens in the environment: How close are we?

" said Newby.

Newby and INEEL molecular biologist Frank Roberto are developing a quick, safe, accurate method to detect the brucellosis strain, B. abortus, in the field. Roberto and Newby are designing a DNA-based field assay using a field-portable, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) system. Brucellosis is an infectious bacterial disease caused by the brucella species and can be transmitted from animals--such as cattle--to humans through contact with reproductive tissues or consumption of infected, unpasteurized milk. In animals such as cattle, bison, elk, sheep and goats--and in some rare instances, seals--the disease can cause spontaneous abortion and an inability to conceive in females, and epididymitis in males. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of brucellosis infection in people include fever, night sweats, undue fatigue, anorexia, headache, and joint pain. It is seldom fatal, but there is no effective human vaccine.

Research by Newby and Roberto was recently accepted for publication in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, and will appear in print sometime this year.

Can we ever get to real-time analysis? "Maybe," said Newby. "There are real science advances that need to be made to get us to that point, and we don't completely understand what they are yet."


Contact: Deborah Hill
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

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