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Nanotechnology May Aid in Earlier Anthrax Detection

Europium-based assay can find anthrax protein at much lower levels than ELISA

MONDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- A new test utilizing nanotechnology may be able to detect anthrax infection earlier than existing methods, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcement of research published in the March Clinical and Vaccine Immunology.

The findings came from a proof of concept study examining the use of the europium nanoparticle-based immunoassay (ENIA). This method uses nanospheres coated with thousands of europium atoms that emit light in the presence of protective antigen produced by Bacillus anthracis. Protective antigen joins another protein to create the deadly anthrax lethal factor toxin.

According to the study, ENIA can detect protective antigen at levels 100 times lower than current tests such as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The new test was able to find protective antigen in 100 percent of samples of mouse plasma, compared to 36.4 percent detected by ELISA.

The FDA promoted the potential use of this method after a bioterrorism attack that utilizes anthrax. "ENIA has potential use in an emergency because its relatively simple design makes the technology adaptable to point-of-care uses," said Shixing Tang, M.D., Ph.D., first author of the study and an associate scientist in the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a prepared statement.

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