First step towards detecting exposure to biowarfare agents

Army researchers are laying the groundwork for what one day could be a test to identify individuals who have been exposed to biological agents. They present their findings today at the American Society for Microbiology’s Biodefense Research Meeting. “Recent events have demonstrated that assessing exposure to a biological threat agent well in advance of onset of illness or at various stages post-exposure would be an important capability to have among the diagnostic options,” says Marti Jett of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the scientist directing the study.

From the American Society for Microbiology:
First step towards detecting exposure to biowarfare agents

BALTIMORE ? March 11, 2003 ? Army researchers are laying the groundwork for what one day could be a test to identify individuals who have been exposed to biological agents. They present their findings today at the American Society for Microbiology’s Biodefense Research Meeting.

“Recent events have demonstrated that assessing exposure to a biological threat agent well in advance of onset of illness or at various stages post-exposure would be an important capability to have among the diagnostic options,” says Marti Jett of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the scientist directing the study.

After exposure to a biological agent an individual’s cells begin to react almost immediately. This reaction is characterized by a unique combination of genes activated or expressed in response to the organism. Jett and colleagues from Walter Reed and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases have identified the unique gene expression patterns from human cells induced in response to 8 different biothreat agents.

“The overall objective has been to create a library of host gene expression responses typical of various biological threat and infectious agents and to begin to correlate gene patterns to predict course of impending illness,” says Jett. “New technology currently can be used to profile approximately 400 genes in a few hours. This offers possibilities utilizing host gene expression responses for rapid detection of potentially exposed individuals.”

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The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is the largest single life science society, composed of over 42,000 scientists, teachers, physicians, and health professionals. Its mission is to promote research and training in the microbiological sciences and to assist communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public to improve health, economic well being, and the environment.

Further information on the ASM Biodefense Research Meeting can be found online at www.asmbiodefense.org.

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