"The first thing people want to know in a case of suspected exposure is whether the agent was in fact anthrax," says Franklin R. Cockerill, III, M.D., the Mayo Clinic microbiologist who led the development team. "Until now, local labs have been able to quickly determine the presence of a bacterium, but they cant tell whether it is anthrax or not. The current process to identify the presence of anthrax may take several days. The events of the last several weeks require as rapid a response as possible."
Roche plans to give regional and local laboratories the ability to perform rapid DNA testing, eliminating the waiting period currently required at most laboratories to identify anthrax. Thus, a larger number of laboratories will now be able to provide a rapid "yes" or "no" answer.
"This rapid identification will enable doctors to begin more timely treatment of patients who have been exposed to anthrax, and it will more quickly alleviate undue anxiety for people who havent been exposed," says Dr. Cockerill.
The Mayo Clinic team led by Dr. Cockerill developed the test using Roche's LightCycler instrument for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays. To make the test widely available, Roche significantly accelerated production of the reagents needed to run the assay.
"Making this test available in a very short time frame is our contribution to the fight against bioterrorism and is a direct outcome of the excellent cooperation between Roche and Mayo Clinic," says Martin Madaus, President and CEO of Roche Diagnostics Corporation.
Contact: John Murphy