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Rapid Test for Anthrax

In November 2001, Mayo Clinic developed a new DNA test to rapidly identify anthrax in human and environmental samples. The test identifies the presence of anthrax in less than one hour. Previously, that process had taken several days. The rapid test is an important development in light of recent bioterrorism attacks.

The Mayo Clinic team developed the test using Roche's LightCycler® instrument for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays. Roche is one of the world's leading research-oriented health care groups in the fields of pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and vitamins.

"The first thing people want to know in case of a suspected exposure is whether the agent was in fact anthrax," said Franklin Cockerill III, M.D., the Mayo Clinic microbiologist who led the development team. "Until now, local labs have been able to quickly determine the presence of a bacterium, but they can't tell whether it is anthrax or not. The rapid identification will enable doctors to begin more timely treatment of patients who have been exposed to anthrax, and it will more quickly alleviate undue anxiety for people who haven't been exposed."

To make the test widely available, Roche significantly accelerated production of the reagents needed to run the assay.

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