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New PCR Assay Accurately Identifies Burkholderia Bacteria

A newly developed assay could provide increased accuracy, with reduced cost when attempting to identify Burkholderia bacteria, which some varieties are deadly.

DTRA CB/JSTO-funded research at Northern Arizona University collects genetic information on all types of Burkholderia that will be used to improve identification tools for developing better assays for more accurate disease diagnosis. One product spun off from this effort was the development of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based assay, Bu550, that allowed for the easier and more accurate differentiation of B. ubonensis, the nonfatal infective organism, from its near-neighbor, B. pseudomallei, the highly lethal bacterium.

In the article “Accurate and Rapid Identification of the Burkholderia pseudomallei Near-Neighbour, Burkholderia ubonensis, Using Real-Time PCR,” that was recently published in the journal PLoS ONE, Dr. David Wagner of Northern Arizona University detailed the development of the new assay. Both species share an environmental niche and are frequently confused when cultured on Ashdown’s medium, the selective for Burkholderia spp. Until now, characterization of B. ubonensis and differentiation from its near neighbors has relied on laborious, time‐consuming and costly methodologies. It is anticipated the Bu550 assay will catalyze research on B. ubonensis by enabling rapid identification of this organism and distinguishing it from other Ashdown‐positive Burkholderia colonies.

The ability to distinguish infections and non-infectious, Burkholderia can impact planning risk assessments in estimating the risk of warfighters contracting diseases when deployed into a new region. This assay allows planners to minimize exposure to deployed warfighters by avoiding areas of known elevated risk of infection.

Continued genetic characterization of B. ubonensis and other Burkholderia near-neighbors will aid in the improvement of current sequence-based assay specificity, thereby reducing misidentification events. Misidentification of Burkholderia spp. has implications for all decision-makers in the fields of environmental studies, clinical diagnosis and biosecurity response.

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