Grant awarded to develop quicker methods of diagnosing bioagents

The National Institutes of Health have awarded a grant to develop quick diagnostic methods for bacterial agents requiring limited resources and personnel.

The grant was awarded to Thomas Inzana, the Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Chair of Bacteriology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech and co-investigators James "Randy" Heflin, a professor in the Department of Physics in the university's College of Science, and Abey Bandera, a research assistant professor in the veterinary college.

The investigators will use the grant to aid in the development of nanoscale optical fiber biosensor tests - assays - to detect Francisella tularensis, Burkholderia mallei and B. pseudomallei.

Current tests for the bacterial agents use either Biosecurity Level-3 lab cultures or serology and antibody-based testing. Both methods require extensive materials and training with results taking days or weeks.

“This assay will be rugged, portable, inexpensive, and rapid,” Inzana, the associate vice president for research programs at the university, told “All of these are critical to minimizing the affect on an intentionally introduced biological weapon.”

The new method of detection being developed will increase both the speed of detection and the speed of treatment for those affected.

The new detectors utilize an optical fiber coated with antibodies or DNA. The coating will then bind to antigens or DNA in the specimen, causing the light that would normally pass through the fiber to decrease and indicating the presence of a biological agent.

Organizations in this Story

National Institutes of Health

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