Monkeypox virus (MPXV), a member of the family Poxviridae and genus Orthopoxvirus, causes a smallpox-like disease in humans. A previously described pan-Orthopoxvirus assay, based on a broad-range polymerase chain reaction (PCR) coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS), was evaluated for its ability to detect MPXV from spiked human and aerosol-infected cynomolgous macaque (Macaca fascicularis) samples. Detection of MPXV DNA from macaque tissue, blood, and spiked human blood by the PCR/ESI-MS pan-Orthopoxvirus assay was comparable, albeit at slightly higher levels, to the current gold standard method of real-time PCR with the pan-Orthopoxvirus assay and had a limit of detection of 200 plaque-forming units. Furthermore, the platform was able to distinguish MPXV and vaccinia viruses that were spiked into macaque blood samples at various concentrations. This platform provides a new tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of orthopoxviral loads during vaccine or antiviral studies, but also could provide rapid identification during natural outbreaks or bioterrorism attacks.
Flaviviruses are a highly diverse group of RNA viruses classified within the genus Flavivirus, family Flaviviridae. Most flaviviruses are arthropod-borne, requiring a mosquito or tick vector. Several flaviviruses are highly pathogenic to humans; however, their high genetic diversity and immunological relatedness makes them extremely challenging to diagnose. In this study, we developed and evaluated a broad-range Flavivirus assay designed to detect both tick- and mosquito-borne flaviviruses by using RT-PCR/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (RT-PCR/ESI-MS) on the Ibis T5000 platform. The assay was evaluated with a panel of 13 different flaviviruses. All samples were correctly identified to the species level. To determine the limit of detection for the mosquito-borne primer sets, serial dilutions of RNA from West Nile virus (WNV) were assayed and could be detected down to an equivalent viral titer of 0.2 plaque-forming units/mL. Analysis of flaviviruses in their natural biological background included testing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that were laboratory-infected with dengue-1 virus. The assay accurately identified the virus within infected mosquitoes, and we determined the average viral genome per mosquito to be 2.0 x 10(6). Using human blood, serum, and urine spiked with WNV and mouse blood and brain tissues from Karshi virus-infected mice, we showed that these clinical matrices did not inhibit the detection of these viruses. Finally, we used the assay to test field-collected Ixodes scapularis ticks collected from sites in New York and Connecticut. We found 16/322 (5% infection rate) ticks positive for deer tick virus, a subtype of Powassan virus. In summary, we developed a single high-throughput Flavivirus assay that could detect multiple tick- and mosquito-borne flaviviruses and thus provides a new analytical tool for their medical diagnosis and epidemiological surveillance.
The Ibis T5000 is a novel diagnostic platform that couples PCR and mass spectrometry. In this study, we developed an assay that can identify all known pathogenic Vibrio species and field-tested it using natural water samples from both freshwater lakes and the Georgian coastal zone of the Black Sea. Of the 278 total water samples screened, 9 different Vibrio species were detected, 114 (41%) samples were positive for V. cholerae, and 5 (0.8%) samples were positive for the cholera toxin A gene (ctxA). All ctxA-positive samples were from two freshwater lakes, and no ctxA-positive samples from any of the Black Sea sites were detected.
Polymerase chain reaction electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS) was tested for its ability to accurately identify a blinded panel of 156 diverse bacterial isolates, mostly human and/or animal pathogens. Here, 142/156 (91%) isolates were correctly identified to the genus level and 115/156 (74%) were correctly identified to the species level. Only 9% were misidentified. This study shows that multilocus PCR/ESI-MS has the potential to be a useful technique for identifying a broad range of bacteria.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C-3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL-2050 and 2009EL-2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL-2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
Technology for comprehensive identification of biothreats in environmental and clinical specimens is needed to protect citizens in the case of a biological attack. This is a challenge because there are dozens of bacterial and viral species that might be used in a biological attack and many have closely related near-neighbor organisms that are harmless. The biothreat agent, along with its near neighbors, can be thought of as a biothreat cluster or a biocluster for short. The ability to comprehensively detect the important biothreat clusters with resolution sufficient to distinguish the near neighbors with an extremely low false positive rate is required. A technological solution to this problem can be achieved by coupling biothreat group-specific PCR with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (PCR/ESI-MS). The biothreat assay described here detects ten bacterial and four viral biothreat clusters on the NIAID priority pathogen and HHS/USDA select agent lists. Detection of each of the biothreat clusters was validated by analysis of a broad collection of biothreat organisms and near neighbors prepared by spiking biothreat nucleic acids into nucleic acids extracted from filtered environmental air. Analytical experiments were carried out to determine breadth of coverage, limits of detection, linearity, sensitivity, and specificity. Further, the assay breadth was demonstrated by testing a diverse collection of organisms from each biothreat cluster. The biothreat assay as configured was able to detect all the target organism clusters and did not misidentify any of the near-neighbor organisms as threats. Coupling biothreat cluster-specific PCR to electrospray ionization mass spectrometry simultaneously provides the breadth of coverage, discrimination of near neighbors, and an extremely low false positive rate due to the requirement that an amplicon with a precise base composition of a biothreat agent be detected by mass spectrometry.
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