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Detecting Anthrax using Nano Detector

BY: Shalini Balan | Category: Nanotechnology | Submitted: 2011-11-19 01:01:57
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Article Summary: "what is anthrax and how it can be detected through newly invented nano decor? Nano detector can now be used as Biodefense to protect against the deadly diseases..."

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The lethal microbe which was used in bio warfare against the nations by the opponents was B. anthracis. Anthrax may be used as a biological weapon or for bio-terrorism. In 2001, anthrax sent through the U.S. Postal Service infected 22 people; 7 survivors had confirmed cutaneous anthrax disease.

B. anthracis, known as anthrax is a deadly microbe that used to deliberately infect the victims .It is usually done through contaminating the food and water supplies with these microbes. They also use them as dried powders, aerosolized particles, which are used in bioterrorist attacks.When humans get affected with anthrax they mostly attack the skin, gastrointestinal tract, or lungs.

Anthrax affected animals are mostly sheep, cattle, and goats. These can spread it to humans when they come in contact with them. At the beginning anthrax affected included farm workers, veterinarians, and tannery and wool workers. As they were in close contact with these animals as a part of their work.Anthrax can also develop by inhaling its spores which goes to the respiratory tract through the lungs. It is most commonly contracted when workers breathe in airborne anthrax spores during processes such as tanning hides and processing wool.

The person who inhaled the spores will not have symptoms. To have the symptoms will take a long time usually takes 1 to 6 days. Because they have to germinate before the actual disease occurs .Once the spores germinate, they release several toxic substances. These substances cause internal bleeding, swelling, and tissue death. Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs when someone eats anthrax-tainted meat.


• Begins with fever, headache, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain
• Fever and shock occurs later.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal anthrax usually occur within 1 week and may include:
• Abdominal pain
• Bloody diarrhea
• Diarrhea
• Fever
• Mouth sores
• Nausea and vomiting which may contain blood.


The diagnosis of deadly anthrax depends mainly on the type and area where is has been affected within case of skin infection biopsy is done on the skin sores. The sample is looked at under a microscope to identify the anthrax germ.

Tests includes:
• Blood culture
• Chest CT scan or chest x-ray
• Spinal tap to check for infection around the spinal column
• Sputum culture
Fluid or blood samples may be sent to a special laboratory specialized for more testing, including PCR, immunofluorescence, and immunohistochemistry.


People affected with anthrax are treated with antibiotics. Several antibiotics are effective, including penicillin, doxycycline, and ciprofloxacin depending on the strain of anthrax. When anthrax is inhaled usually a combination of antibiotics are used .As they don't show symptoms during inhalation but as it takes long time to germinate the treatment can be prolonged. Doctors often start treatment with ciprofloxacin plus another drug, given through a vein.


Nano detector can now be used as Biodefense to protect against the deadly diseases.
In the conventional method for detecting anthrax used to take nearly six minutes for process involving DNA purification, combined with real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. But the new nanodetector which automatic and portable just takes fifteen minutes to analyze a sample suspected of contamination with anthrax.

Because of the complexities of the microbe's biology it was difficult to build a moveable system which can be used quickly. The conventional detector unit has its own disadvantage as they don't integrate sample preparation. But they were fast and sensitive and used polymerase chain reaction to amplify a particular component of the genetic material present in anthrax and then to flag this amplified DNA
Recently it has been from International Journal of Biomedical Nan science and Nanotechnology that a nanofabricated fluidic cartridges that can be used to carry out detection of anthrax. Was invented by the researches from University of Albany and Cornell University, The device is a so-called "lab-on-a-chips" device, or more properly a 3D microfluidic network that contains nanofabricated pillar structures.

The device has fluidic inputs for adding sample and reagents, and access for removing the waste, for carrying out DNA purification, and mainly an integrated chamber for amplifying only the target DNA in the sample using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) system. The chip also contains a wave guide which signs off in the fluorescence colour when the amplified DNA is formed .which are nothing but the target microbe. Importantly, the system works without manual intervention other than loading a droplet of sample into the detector. This automated system prevents lot of time.

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