Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Sugar Coating Reveals Black Death

Plague detection through anti-carbohydrate antibodies

Even today, the lives of humans and animals are claimed by plague. A new antibody-based detection method can be used to reliably and sensitively identify plague in patient serum and other biological samples.

The antibody specifically recognizes a particular carbohydrate structure found on the cell surfaces of the bacterium that causes plague, as reported by German researchers in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

“Black death” took the lives of over 200 million humans over the course of three pandemics in the last 1500 years. More recently, cases of plague have been detected in Africa and Asia. Because of the high danger of transmission and the severity of the infection, Yersinia pestis, the pathogen behind the plague, is classified as a category A biological weapon. When inhaled as an aerosol it causes pneumonic plague, which usually results in death if it is not treated fast. Rapid and reliable diagnosis is thus critical.

“Currently, Y. pestis is detected by polymerase chain reaction based assays or traditional phenotyping,” explains Peter Seeberger of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam. “These methods of detection are reliable, but they are also often complex, expensive, and slow.”

The recognition of surface proteins by antibodies is a highly promising and less complicated alternative method for the detection of plague, but it has a high failure rate and low selectivity with regard to related strains of bacteria.

Seeberger and his team have now found a way around this problem: Gram-negative bacteria like Y. pestis have molecules called lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), made of fat and carbohydrate components, on their outer cell membranes. “The inner core of the Yersinia LPS has a unique structure that differs from that of other Gram-negative bacteria,” says Seeberger. “This could be a suitable region for detection by means of specific antibodies for rapid point-of-care diagnosis.”

Because isolation of Y. pestis LPS is a laborious undertaking, the researchers chose to synthetically produce one typical motif from the molecule, a segment consisting of three sugar molecules, each of which has a framework of seven carbon atoms. The researchers attached these segments, called triheptoses, to diphtherietoxoid CRM197, which acts as a carrier protein. This protein is a typical component of licensed vaccine formulations and triggers the formation of antibodies. The researchers immunized mice and isolated antibodies from their blood.

Various immunoassays demonstrated that the resulting antibodies detect the plague pathogen with high selectivity and sensitivity, and selectively differentiate between Y. pestis and other Gram-negative bacteria. The researchers hope to be able to use this to develop applications for patient diagnostics. The development of corresponding tests is the focus of their current research.

About the Author
Prof. Peter Seeberger is Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam and Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin. Since 2003, he has served as an affiliate professor at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, CA (USA). His main specialty is synthetic carbohydrate chemistry. His research interests focus on the role of complex carbohydrates and glycoconjugates in information transfer in biological systems. His group has developed new methods for the automated solid-phase synthesis of complex carbohydrates and glycosaminoglycans that serve as molecular tools.

Author: Peter H. Seeberger, Max-Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam (Germany),

Title: Plague Detection by Anti-carbohydrate Antibodies
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article:

Peter H. Seeberger | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht ‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

nachricht Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>