Patent granted for F. tularensis diagnosis method

A research team from the University at Texas San Antonio was recently granted a U.S. patent for a method to diagnose the presence of Francisella tularensis, the bacteria that causes the disease tularemia.

While tularemia remains a rarely occurring natural infection, it can be fatal when acquired through the lungs. Experts, therefore, consider it a potential biothreat agent.

The researchers from UTSA's South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious diseases found that F. tularensis degrades alkaline phosphatase in a distinctive manner and have developed a means to use the degradation pattern as a diagnostic tool to identify the bacteria's presence.

"The South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases is focused on developing new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to reduce the impact of infectious organisms on the human population," UTSA microbiology professor Karl Klose said. "Tularemia is a difficult disease to diagnose, due to its infrequent appearance in the clinical setting, yet rapid diagnosis may be critical for effective intervention during a bioterrorist event. This patent may lead to better diagnostics and possibly even novel therapeutics for tularemia."

STCEID researchers were awarded a patent in 2010 for a tularemia vaccine that was composed of a live, but crippled, Francisella bacterium. The vaccine was unable to cause the disease, but induced a protective response against infection in humans.