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1.  Detection of Burkholderia pseudomallei O-antigen serotypes in near-neighbor species 
BMC Microbiology  2012;12:250.
Burkholderia pseudomallei is the etiological agent of melioidosis and a CDC category B select agent with no available effective vaccine. Previous immunizations in mice have utilized the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) as a potential vaccine target because it is known as one of the most important antigenic epitopes in B. pseudomallei. Complicating this strategy are the four different B. pseudomallei LPS O-antigen types: A, B, B2, and rough. Sero-crossreactivity is common among O-antigens of Burkholderia species. Here, we identified the presence of multiple B. pseudomallei O-antigen types and sero-crossreactivity in its near-neighbor species.
PCR screening of O-antigen biosynthesis genes, phenotypic characterization using SDS-PAGE, and immunoblot analysis showed that majority of B. mallei and B. thailandensis strains contained the typical O-antigen type A. In contrast, most of B. ubonensis and B. thailandensis-like strains expressed the atypical O-antigen types B and B2, respectively. Most B. oklahomensis strains expressed a distinct and non-seroreactive O-antigen type, except strain E0147 which expressed O-antigen type A. O-antigen type B2 was also detected in B. thailandensis 82172, B. ubonensis MSMB108, and Burkholderia sp. MSMB175. Interestingly, B. thailandensis-like MSMB43 contained a novel serotype B positive O-antigen.
This study expands the number of species which express B. pseudomallei O-antigen types. Further work is required to elucidate the full structures and how closely these are to the B. pseudomallei O-antigens, which will ultimately determine the efficacy of the near-neighbor B serotypes for vaccine development.
PMCID: PMC3541218  PMID: 23126230
2.  Genomic Comparison of Escherichia coli O104:H4 Isolates from 2009 and 2011 Reveals Plasmid, and Prophage Heterogeneity, Including Shiga Toxin Encoding Phage stx2 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48228.
In May of 2011, an enteroaggregative Escherichia coli O104:H4 strain that had acquired a Shiga toxin 2-converting phage caused a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea in Europe which was notable for its high prevalence of hemolytic uremic syndrome cases. Several studies have described the genomic inventory and phylogenies of strains associated with the outbreak and a collection of historical E. coli O104:H4 isolates using draft genome assemblies. We present the complete, closed genome sequences of an isolate from the 2011 outbreak (2011C–3493) and two isolates from cases of bloody diarrhea that occurred in the Republic of Georgia in 2009 (2009EL–2050 and 2009EL–2071). Comparative genome analysis indicates that, while the Georgian strains are the nearest neighbors to the 2011 outbreak isolates sequenced to date, structural and nucleotide-level differences are evident in the Stx2 phage genomes, the mer/tet antibiotic resistance island, and in the prophage and plasmid profiles of the strains, including a previously undescribed plasmid with homology to the pMT virulence plasmid of Yersinia pestis. In addition, multiphenotype analysis showed that 2009EL–2071 possessed higher resistance to polymyxin and membrane-disrupting agents. Finally, we show evidence by electron microscopy of the presence of a common phage morphotype among the European and Georgian strains and a second phage morphotype among the Georgian strains. The presence of at least two stx2 phage genotypes in host genetic backgrounds that may derive from a recent common ancestor of the 2011 outbreak isolates indicates that the emergence of stx2 phage-containing E. coli O104:H4 strains probably occurred more than once, or that the current outbreak isolates may be the result of a recent transfer of a new stx2 phage element into a pre-existing stx2-positive genetic background.
PMCID: PMC3486847  PMID: 23133618
3.  Evaluation of Handheld Assays for the Detection of Ricin and Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B in Disinfected Waters 
Development of a rapid field test is needed capable of determining if field supplies of water are safe to drink by the warfighter during a military operation. The present study sought to assess the effectiveness of handheld assays (HHAs) in detecting ricin and Staphylococcal Enterotoxin B (SEB) in water. Performance of HHAs was evaluated in formulated tap water with and without chlorine, reverse osmosis water (RO) with chlorine, and RO with bromine. Each matrix was prepared, spiked with ricin or SEB at multiple concentrations, and then loaded onto HHAs. HHAs were allowed to develop and then read visually. Limits of detection (LOD) were determined for all HHAs in each water type. Both ricin and SEB were detected by HHAs in formulated tap water at or below the suggested health effect levels of 455 ng/mL and 4.55 ng/mL, respectively. However, in brominated or chlorinated waters, LODs for SEB increased to approximately 2,500 ng/mL. LODs for ricin increased in chlorinated water, but still remained below the suggested health effect level. In brominated water, the LOD for ricin increased to approximately 2,500 ng/mL. In conclusion, the HHAs tested were less effective at detecting ricin and SEB in disinfected water, as currently configured.
PMCID: PMC3139884  PMID: 21792355
4.  Survival of Viral Biowarfare Agents in Disinfected Waters 
Protecting civilian and military water supplies has received more attention since the United States began its war on terror in 2001. Both chlorine and bromine are used by branches of the U.S. military for disinfecting water supplies; however, limited data exists as to the effectiveness of these additives when used against viral biowarfare agents. The present study sought to evaluate the survival of selected viral biothreat agents in disinfected water. Disinfected water samples were spiked with vaccinia virus strain WR and Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus strain TC-83 each separately to a final concentration of approximately 1 × 106 PFU/mL, and survival was assessed by plaque assay. Both viruses were inactivated by 1 mg/L free available chlorine (FAC) and 2mg/L total bromine within one hour. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that both chlorine and bromine are effective disinfectants against vaccinia virus and VEE strain TC-83 at the concentrations tested.
PMCID: PMC3010632  PMID: 21197430

Results 1-4 (4)