Discovery of surface sugars could help to identify anthrax spores, infection

The recent discovery of sugar molecules located on anthrax spores could lead to new detection methods and potentially to the development of a next-generation vaccine.

A team of scientists from Columbia University's Columbia Technology Ventures identified immunogenic sugar moieties on anthrax spores using their proprietary photo-activated glycan array. The Anthrose-containing saccharides were found to be specific to B. anthracis and found on the outer surfaces of most spores, according to

Current approaches to immunization against B. anthracis infection involve using weakened microbes or purified surface proteins. The parasite limits their effectiveness, however, through its ability to rapidly shuffle the proteins located on its surface.

The recently-identified carbohydrates, however, are not readily mutable and are specific to the parasite. They exhibit no cross-reaction to the host and can be synthesized artificially. The scientists said that they can be utilized for the detection of anthrax spores, the diagnosis of anthrax infection and the development of new vaccines, reports.

During their research, the Columbia team developed a novel photo-activated glycan array that was used to probe rabbit antibodies produced after immunization using anthrax spore antigens. Columbia Technology Ventures said that the array can also be used to study other pathogens and plans to commercialize its use.