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Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2012 Feb;93(4):1411-22. doi: 10.1007/s00253-011-3845-7. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Rapid detection methods for Bacillus anthracis in environmental samples: a review.

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Defence Laboratories Department, Belgian Armed Forces, Brussels, Belgium.


Bacillus anthracis is a Gram-positive, spore-forming bacterium, which causes anthrax, an often lethal disease of animals and humans. Although the disease has been well studied since the nineteenth century, it has witnessed a renewed interest during the past decade, due to its use as a bioterrorist agent in the fall of 2001 in the USA. A number of techniques aimed at rapidly detecting B. anthracis, in environmental samples as well as in point-of-care settings for humans suspected of exposure to the pathogen, are now available. These technologies range from culture-based methods to portable DNA amplification devices. Despite recent developments, specific identification of B. anthracis still remains difficult because of its phenotypic and genotypic similarities with other Bacillus species. Accordingly, many efforts are being made to improve the specificity of B. anthracis identification. This mini-review discusses the current challenges around B. anthracis identification, not only in reach-back laboratories but also in the field (in operational conditions).

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