There’s a new assay for botulinum toxin, via Heather Edberg and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory:
One of the most lethal substances in the world – botulism – can be detected using special systems in about 20-25 minutes. Now, researchers at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory can detect its presence in five minutes, using the lab’s successful Biodetection Enabling Analyte Delivery System, or BEADS combined with optical detection.
The detection system includes three critical components. First, BEADS isolates the toxin from environmental samples. Next, an antibody is used to purify and concentrate the pathogen or toxin to enable accurate and sensitive detection. Finally, a second antibody, called a reporter antibody, labeled with a fluorescent dye or a fluorescent quantum dot binds to a different region on the toxin or pathogen. The fluorescence of the quantum dot is measured on the bead and can quantify the concentration of the toxin.
The BEADS system has been commercially licensed to a few companies. In addition to detecting botulinum, the system can be tailored to detect multiple pathogens or toxins, such as E. coli, salmonella and ricin, simultaneously.
How lethal is botulinum toxin? Just 240 molecules can kill a mouse. Even if the disease is promptly recognized and treated, patients can spend months on a respirator recovering.
The recommendation has always been to administer antitoxin before labortory confirmation, and given the rapidly progressive nature of the disease, we’re not sure that’s going to change. But, from the perspective of homeland security, the BEADS rapid assay might help mobilize the authorities.
More from the World Health Organization…