Scientists discover fastest diagnostic test for Black Death to date

Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and Professor at the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin Peter Seeberger and his team discovered the fastest diagnostic test yet for the Black Death using glycomic research technology.

The team, using glycochemistry and glycobiology, found and synthesized an oligosaccharide structure on a bacterial surface and combined it with a protein. They then found antibodies against the surface glycan in blood of infected patients. Using the antigen they created, they then created antibodies which directly detected the presence of Yersinia pestis, the cause of Black Death, in infected samples.

The Black Death was an epidemic that took the lives of more than 200 million people during the medieval ages. Cases still occur today and are very dangerous, as each hour a person remains infected decreases the likelihood treatment will be effective. The plague can be treated by antibiotics if it is detected in time, and is considered one of the most deadly bioweapons.

Prior methods for detection included phenotyping or gene testing, both of which are expensive, slow and often times inaccurate. The new method of detection is quick and highly sensitive, making it quite possibly the most useful detection method for the plague today.