A new review authored by Dr. Akbar Khan of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Chemical and Biological Technologies division (DTRA CB) outlines the progress made over the past two decades in development of better detection and diagnostics of pathogens posing threats to warfighters.
The article also considers potential future applications of nucleic acid-based technologies, such as polymerase chain reactions (PCR), DNA microarrays, and high throughput automated sequencing methods.
Khan discusses how microbiologists had to move away from the tedious and time-consuming methods of isolating and identifying pathogenic organisms of interest whenever an outbreak happened to using better immunoassays developed using specific antibodies.
Better methods, such as nucleic acid analysis, including nucleic acid hybridization, PCR, microarray technologies and rapid high throughput automated sequencing, have been at the forefront of the technology in the last 20 years and are more readily available for clinical laboratory testing on a routine basis. These technologies provide the advantages of identifying organisms without special isolation, detecting nonviable organisms, and detecting genetic mutations or alterations in other cellular material – a marked improvement over traditional technologies.
For the future, the article talks about improvements to the aforementioned technologies and the development of new methods of pathogen detection and identification. Real-time PCR assays have become very popular for their abilities to deliver rapid, accurate and highly sensitive qualitative and quantitative analysis, as well as providing genotyping of pathogens.
DNA sequencing provides the next generation of abilities, with cyclic reversible termination (CRT), single-nucleotide addition (SNA) and real-time sequencing in the arsenal, and sequencing by ligation (SBL), an approach in which DNA polymerase is replaced by DNA ligase, providing more options to researchers. Using nanopores as biosensors and sequencers are also seen as future of detection and diagnostic tools. Some of the research and technology funded by DTRA CB will help to mature these technologies.
The rapid advances of these nucleic acid technologies, especially next-generation sequencing platforms, are seen as the future to providing low-cost, readily available abilities to detect and diagnose pathogens that could be threats to warfighters.
Read more at the Journal of Microbiology & Experimentation : Rapid Advances in Nucleic Acid Technologies for Detection and Diagnostics of Pathogens.
Article courtesy of JSTO In the News via DVIDS, adapted.