Method shows promise in detecting lethal botulinum strain

New method can help detect deadly botulinum strain. | Contributed photo

A University of Missouri-Columbia researcher has developed a possible detection method for a poison listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the most dangerous bioterror threats.

Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are some of the most poisonous substances known to humans and are considered potential biological warfare agents. BoNTs have seven known serotypes designated with the letters A through G. BoNT-A, B, E and F are toxic to humans.

Yong Wang, a researcher at the Nanopore Single Molecule Sensing Group and the Biological Engineering and Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia, developed a “nanopore-based” detection for BoNT-B.

"We utilized the emerging aerolysin pore to track the BoNT-B digestion of its substrate, a derivative of the synaptic protein Sb2 (also known as VAMP2),” Wang said. “The dynamic change of the specific digestion product reported the existence of the toxin at sub-nanomolar (500pM) concentration within minutes.”

Wang said the research was motivated due to the danger of BoNTs, and developing a quick detection method is a “priority in toxicology and biodefense.”

This is an area of future interest and a fertile ground for improvements of the present BoNT-B nanopore detection scheme,” Wang said. “This approach could be adapted to the selective peptide detection for biosensing and investigating biological processes.”