Researchers at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are developing a method to determine in a matter of hours if someone has been exposed to a bioterrorism agent just by looking at the pattern of active genes in that persons white blood cells. They report their findings today at the ASM Biodefense Research Meeting.
"Effective prophylaxis and treatment for infections caused by biological threat agents (BTA) rely upon early diagnosis and rapid initiation of therapy. However, most methods for identifying pathogens or infectious agents in body fluids and tissues required that the pathogen proliferate to detectable and dangerous levels, thereby delaying diagnosis and treatment," says Rasha Hammamieh, a researcher on the study.
Over the past five years Hammamieh and her colleagues have been studying the host response to BTAs. Upon exposure to a BTA host cells initiate a unique response, turning specific genes on and off. Leukocytes in the bloodstream course throughout the body in a matter of minutes. If they encounter something that is not normally there they make a record in their gene expression.
Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
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