System drastically cuts down botulism detection time

September 01, 2005

Washington, D.C. -- 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.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researcher Heather Edberg will be presenting her results at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society at 8:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 1.

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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