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Detection of bioterrorism viruses brought closer to local sites

ROCHESTER, MINN. -- In the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers outline new methods for safely and accurately identifying a suspected bioterrorism agent and detail what physicians should know about the symptoms and treatments needed for the highest priority level of infectious agents, such as anthrax, smallpox, botulism, tularemia and plague.

"The threat of a bioterrorism attack has become a real concern in the United States. An effective response depends largely upon physician recognition of signs and symptoms associated with infectious agents (bacteria and viruses) that may be used in bioterrorism attacks, says Franklin R. Cockerill, III, M.D. Of equal importance is the rapid and accurate laboratory identification of the specific infectious agent used in the attack."

In a smallpox case, there is concern for the infection of many others, because of the contagiousness of the virus and the decontamination steps required to stop the threat of others being infected.

Yet, there are only two laboratories in the United States currently equipped to analyze specimens, such as suspected smallpox viruses, in an environment where the investigators aren't at high risk of infection. The laboratories are known as Biosafety Level 4 facilities: the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.

Mayo Clinic researchers have found a new use for a common piece of equipment available in most laboratories and even in dental offices: the autoclave. The autoclave method uses a 15-minute steaming process that reaches 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Autoclaving a specimen similar to the smallpox virus, Mayo Clinic researchers report, kills the virus' infectivity, but retains the needed DNA that can be used in the Lightcycler Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. Earlier, Mayo Clinic researchers were able to use the Lightcycler device to rapidly identify anthrax, speeding up t
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Contact: John Murphy
newsbureau@mayo.edu
507-284-5005
Mayo Clinic
9-Jul-2002


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