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Biosens Bioelectron. 2000;15(11-12):549-78.

A review of molecular recognition technologies for detection of biological threat agents.

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Systems & Processes Engineering Corporation, Austin, TX 78701, USA.


The present review summarizes the state of the art in molecular recognition of biowarfare agents and other pathogens and emphasizes the advantages of using particular types of reagents for a given target (e.g. detection of bacteria using antibodies versus nucleic acid probes). It is difficult to draw firm conclusions as to type of biorecognition molecule to use for a given analyte. However, the detection method and reagents are generally target-driven and the user must decide on what level (genetic versus phenotypic) the detection should be performed. In general, nucleic acid-based detection is more specific and sensitive than immunological-based detection, while the latter is faster and more robust. This review also points out the challenges faced by military and civilian defense components in the rapid and accurate detection and identification of harmful agents in the field. Although new and improved sensors will continue to be developed, the more crucial need in any biosensor may be the molecular recognition component (e.g. antibody, aptamer, enzyme, nucleic acid, receptor, etc.). Improvements in the affinity, specificity and mass production of the molecular recognition components may ultimately dictate the success or failure of detection technologies in both a technical and commercial sense. Achieving the ultimate goal of giving the individual soldier on the battlefield or civilian responders to an urban biological attack or epidemic, a miniature, sensitive and accurate biosensor may depend as much on molecular biology and molecular engineering as on hardware engineering. Fortunately, as this review illustrates, a great deal of scientific attention has and is currently being given to the area of molecular recognition components. Highly sensitive and specific detection of pathogenic bacteria and viruses has increased with the proliferation of nucleic acid and immuno-based detection technologies. If recent scientific progress is a fair indicator, the future promises remarkable new developments in molecular recognition elements for use in biosensors with a vast array of applications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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