JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Rapid field detection assays for Bacillus anthracis, Brucella spp., Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis.

Rapid detection is essential for timely initiation of medical post-exposure prophylactic measures in the event of intentional release of biological threat agents. We compared real-time PCR assay performance between the Applied Biosystems 7300/7500 and the RAZOR instruments for specific detection of the causative agents of anthrax, brucellosis, tularemia and plague. Furthermore, an assay detecting Bacillus thuringiensis, a Bacillus anthracis surrogate, was developed for field-training purposes. Assay sensitivities for B. anthracis, Brucella spp., Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis were 10-100 fg of target DNA per reaction, and no significant difference in assay performance was observed between the instrument platforms. Specificity testing of the diagnostic panels with both instrument platforms did not reveal any cross-reactivity with other closely related bacteria. The duration of thermocycling with the RAZOR instrument was shorter, i.e. 40 min as compared with 100 min for the Applied Biosystems 7300/7500 instruments. These assays provide rapid tools for the specific detection of four biological threat agents. The detection assays, as well as the training assay for B. thuringiensis powder preparation analysis, may be utilized under field conditions and for field training, respectively.

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