Diagnosis of Anthrax Infection by Detection of Capsular Antigen in Urine


The October 2001 postal anthrax attacks on the U.S. highlighted the need for fast and reliable anthrax diagnosis. Anthrax is a deadly disease resulting from exposure to the Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis) bacteria. Pulmonary anthrax is the most deadly form of the disease and caused by breathing in B. anthracis spores. In response to the terrorist attacks of 2001, Project BioShield was created by the U.S. government in 2004. As part of this program, $6 billion was set aside for a 10 year period by the Department of Homeland Security to buy next-generation countermeasures against infectious agents such as anthrax as well chemical and radiological threats. The Market Guarantee program associated with the project has paid out well over a billion dollars to private entities helping them develop new technologies as a solution to potential future threats. The overwhelming majority of Project BioShield money allocated for Anthrax countermeasures has been for vaccination and the treatment of Anthrax, as opposed to diagnosis. This is partly due to the inability to accurately and quickly detect Anthrax infections in the body. In 2004, the FDA approved an antibody blood test that detects the antibodies produced from exposure to B. anthracis, yet the diagnosis often comes days after exposure. This merely confirms a person has been exposed, yet can be too late to begin effective, lifesaving treatment, which experts agree needs to be started within 24-48 hours after exposure to high levels of B. anthracis. The discovery made by University of Nevada, Reno and University of New Mexico researchers provides a way to rapidly detect deadly exposure levels of B. anthracis using an industry-standard immunoassay technology.

Technology Summary
This Anthrax Diagnosis technology is an immunoassay that detects trace Bacillus anthracis. The technology involves the ability to detect soluble levels of poly glutamic acid in a biological sample using an immunoassay. Bacillus anthracis is surrounded by a capsule of high molecular weight polymers composed almost entirely of polyglutamic acids (poly y-D-glutamic acid – yDPGA). Researchers at the University of Nevada-Reno and the University of New Mexico discovered an immonassay specific for the capsular, polypeptide form of B. anthracis can be used to detect yDPGA in bodily fluids, such as serum or urine, for pulmonary anthrax. This can be used for the detection, prevention, or treatment of anthrax (infection of B anthracis) or other infectious diseases.

Benefits and Advantages

  • Test can be performed using industry-standard immunoassay platforms
  • Results in as little as 90 seconds using deposable test strips or 3 hours in clinical lab
  • Both blood and urine have been used as samples with positive results

IP Status
UNR ID#: UNR06-023
Diagnosis of Anthrax Infection by Detection of Capsular Antigen in Urine
US Patent Application No.: 12/301,038

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Dan Langford
Technology Commercialization, Manager
University of Nevada, Reno and Desert Research Institute
Thomas Kozel
Marjorie Sutherland
C. Rick Lyons
Julie Lovchik