Test and evaluation of engineered biothreat agent detection systems ("biodetectors") are a challenging task for government agencies and industries involved in biosecurity and biodefense programs. In addition to user friendly features, biodetectors need to perform both highly sensitive and specific detection, and must not produce excessive false alerts. In fact, the atmosphere displays a number of variables such as airborne bacterial content that can interfere with the detection process, thus impeding comparative tests when carried out at different times or places. To overcome these bacterial air content fluctuations, a standardized reagent bacterial mixture (SRBM), consisting in a collection of selected cultivable environmental species that are prevalent in temperate climate bioaerosols, was designed to generate a stable, reproducible, and easy to use surrogate of bioaerosol sample. The rationale, design, and production process are reported. The results showed that 8.59; CI 95%: 8.46-8.72 log cfu distributed into vials underwent a 0.95; CI 95%: 0.65-1.26 log viability decay after dehydration and subsequent reconstitution, thus advantageously mimicking a natural bioaerosol sample which is typically composed of cultivable and uncultivable particles. Dehydrated SRBM was stable for more than 12months at 4°C and allowed the reconstitution of a dead/live cells aqueous suspension that is stable for 96h at +4°C, according to plate counts. Specific detection of a simulating biothreat agent (e.g. Bacillus atrophaeus) by immuno-magnetic or PCR assays did not display any significant loss of sensitivity, false negative or positive results in the presence of SRBM. This work provides guidance on testing and evaluating detection devices, and may contribute to the establishment of suitable standards and normalized procedures.
Clostridium botulinum is the etiological agent of botulism. Due to food-borne poisoning and the potential use of the extremely toxic botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) from C. botulinum in bioterror or biocrime related actions, reliable high resolution typing methods for discriminating C. botulinum strains are needed. Partial sequencing of the adk, atpH, gyrB, proC, rpoD and spo0A genes from 51 various C. botulinum/sporogenes isolates was performed, resulting in 37 different sequence types (STs). Analysis of the sequence data revealed a genetic distribution in five larger clusters with a loose correlation to the BoNT serotypes. The developed MLST assay had a slightly lower resolution ability when compared to the MLVA (multilocus variable number of tandem repeat analysis), but the two methods resulted in similar subclusters of the strains possessing the BoNT serotypes A, B and F. The current work presents the development of a novel MLST assay useful for genotyping C. botulinum related to basic phylogenetic research and trace-back analysis in microbial forensic studies.
Clostridium botulinum is a taxonomic designation that encompasses a broad variety of spore-forming, Gram-positive bacteria producing the botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT). C. botulinum is the etiologic agent of botulism, a rare but severe neuroparalytic disease. Fine-resolution genetic characterization of C. botulinum isolates of any BoNT type is relevant for both epidemiological studies and forensic microbiology. A 10-locus multiple-locus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) was previously applied to isolates of C. botulinum type A. The present study includes five additional loci designed to better address proteolytic B and F serotypes. We investigated 79 C. botulinum group I strains isolated from human and food samples in several European countries, including types A (28), B (36), AB (4), and F (11) strains, and 5 nontoxic Clostridium sporogenes. Additional data were deduced from in silico analysis of 10 available fully sequenced genomes. This 15-locus MLVA (MLVA-15) scheme identified 86 distinct genotypes that clustered consistently with the results of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and MLVA genotyping in previous reports. An MLVA-7 scheme, a subset of the MLVA-15, performed on a lab-on-a-chip device using a nonfluorescent subset of primers, is also proposed as a first-line assay. The phylogenetic grouping obtained with the MLVA-7 does not differ significantly from that generated by the MLVA-15. To our knowledge, this report is the first to analyze genetic variability among all of the C. botulinum group I serotypes by MLVA. Our data provide new insights into the genetic variability of group I C. botulinum isolates worldwide and demonstrate that this group is genetically highly diverse.
A real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay was developed for rapid identification of Bacillus anthracis in environmental samples. These samples often harbor Bacillus cereus bacteria closely related to B. anthracis, which may hinder its specific identification by resulting in false positive signals. The assay consists of two duplex real-time PCR: the first PCR allows amplification of a sequence specific of the B. cereus group (B. anthracis, B. cereus, Bacillus thuringiensis, Bacillus weihenstephanensis, Bacillus pseudomycoides, and Bacillus mycoides) within the phosphoenolpyruvate/sugar phosphotransferase system I gene and a B. anthracis specific single nucleotide polymorphism within the adenylosuccinate synthetase gene. The second real-time PCR assay targets the lethal factor gene from virulence plasmid pXO1 and the capsule synthesis gene from virulence plasmid pXO2. Specificity of the assay is enhanced by the use of minor groove binding probes and/or locked nucleic acids probes. The assay was validated on 304 bacterial strains including 37 B. anthracis, 67 B. cereus group, 54 strains of non-cereus group Bacillus, and 146 Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria strains. The assay was performed on various environmental samples spiked with B. anthracis or B. cereus spores. The assay allowed an accurate identification of B. anthracis in environmental samples. This study provides a rapid and reliable method for improving rapid identification of B. anthracis in field operational conditions.
Multiple locus variable number of tandem repeat (VNTR) analysis (MLVA) has been shown to be very promising for the typing of Burkholderia pseudomallei and mallei. The currently available set of loci requires high resolution allele size measurement due to short repeat units. The present work was aimed at expanding the available set of VNTR loci, and generating data from a collection of 102 B. pseudomallei strains isolated in Singapore between 1988 and 2004 including few additional strains of various origins as references. Ten new VNTRs with a longer array size have been identified compatible with standard agarose gel separation, and a reference database of 72 genotypes was created which can be queried on the Internet.
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