Biological threats posed by pathogens such as Ebola virus must be quickly diagnosed, while protecting the safety of personnel. Scanning electron microscopy and microanalysis requires minimal specimen preparation and can help to identify hazardous agents or substances. Here we report a compact biosafety system for rapid imaging and elemental analysis of specimens, including powders, viruses and bacteria, which is easily transportable to the site of an incident.
We present the first systematic study of the stability of the structure and electrical properties of FeCl3 intercalated few-layer graphene to high levels of humidity and high temperature. Complementary experimental techniques such as electrical transport, high resolution transmission electron microscopy and Raman spectroscopy conclusively demonstrate the unforseen stability of this transparent conductor to a relative humidity up to 100% at room temperature for 25 days, to a temperature up to 150°C in atmosphere and to a temperature as high as 620°C in vacuum, that is more than twice higher than the temperature at which the intercalation is conducted. The stability of FeCl3 intercalated few-layer graphene together with its unique values of low square resistance and high optical transparency, makes this material an attractive transparent conductor in future flexible electronic applications.
viruses; influenza; A(H5N1); Canada
Diagnostic electron microscopy for infectious diseases has the advantage that “everything” in the specimen can be observed, without a priori knowledge of the likely identity of the microorganisms present in the sample. The classical specimen preparation method used employs a droplet of sample, which allows particles to adsorb to a support film, and is subsequently negative stained. This “grid on drop” procedure has a sensitivity range of approximately 106 viruses per mL if no enrichment procedures are used. In the current investigation we present a novel use of filtration that allows us to detect viruses at concentrations as low as 102 viruses per mL. We present here methods based on filtration, in which total virus, and not virus concentration, is the limiting factor for detection. We show that filtration is more sensitive than conventional negative staining and can detect as few as 5 × 103 particles per sample.
scanning electron microscopy (SEM); transmission electron microscopy (TEM); negative staining; filtration; vaccinia
Although national surveillance programs are in place to monitor norovirus epidemiology, the emergence of new strains and the genetic diversity among genotypes can be challenging for clinical laboratories. This study evaluated the analytical and clinical performance characteristics of one real-time RT-PCR and two end-point RT-PCRs commonly used in microbiology laboratories.
Lower limit of detection (LoD) was determined using 10-fold dilutions of noroviruses belonging to different genotypes. The clinical performance of the real-time and end-point RT-PCRs was assessed in parallel using nucleic acids extracted from 186 stool specimens.
The real-time RT-PCR was highly sensitive and specific for the detection of norovirus genotypes that are currently circulating in Canada. In contrast, the two end-point RT-PCRs displayed poor analytical sensitivity or complete failure to detect certain norovirus genotypes, which was correlated to sequence mismatches in the primer-binding sites. In an attempt to improve norovirus detection with the end-point RT-PCRs, both assays were processed concurrently and detection from either assay was considered a positive result. Concurrent testing resulted in only a modest increase in clinical sensitivity (75.0%) compared to each assay alone (62.5% and 71.9%). However, the false positivity rate increased from 1.98% and 3.36% for the assays alone to 5.47% with concurrent testing.
This study emphasizes the benefits of a real-time method and provides support for routine surveillance to monitor norovirus epidemiology and ongoing proficiency testing to ensure detection of circulating norovirus genotypes.
Norovirus; Proficiency testing; Quantitative RT-PCR; Epidemiology; Genotyping
Serotyping is the long-standing gold standard method to determine E. coli H antigens; however, this method requires a panel of H-antigen specific antibodies and often culture-based induction of the H-antigen flagellar motility. In this study, a rapid and accurate method to isolate and identify the Escherichia coli (E. coli) H flagellar antigen was developed using membrane filtration and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Flagella were isolated from pure culture, digested with trypsin, and then subjected to LC-MS/MS using one of two systems (Agilent-nano-LC-QSTAR XL or Proxeon-nano-LC-LTQ-Orbitrap XL). The resulting peptide sequence data were searched against a custom E. coli flagella/H antigen database. This approach was evaluated using flagella isolated from reference E. coli strains representing all 53 known H antigen types and 41 clinical E. coli strains. The resulting LC-MS/MS classifications of H antigen types (MS-H) were concordant with the known H serogroup for all 53 reference types, and of 41 clinical isolates tested, 38 (92.7%) were concordant with the known H serogroup. MS-H clearly also identified two clinical isolates (4.9%) that were untypeable by serotyping. Notably, successful detection and classification of flagellar antigens with MS-H did not generally require induction of motility, establishing this proteomic approach as more rapid and cost-effective than traditional methods, while providing equitable specificity for typing E. coli H antigens.
To make full use of research data, the bioscience community needs to adopt technologies and reward mechanisms that support interoperability and promote the growth of an open ‘data commoning’ culture. Here we describe the prerequisites for data commoning and present an established and growing ecosystem of solutions using the shared ‘Investigation-Study-Assay’ framework to support that vision.
Here we present a standard developed by the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) for reporting marker gene sequences—the minimum information about a marker gene sequence (MIMARKS). We also introduce a system for describing the environment from which a biological sample originates. The ‘environmental packages’ apply to any genome sequence of known origin and can be used in combination with MIMARKS and other GSC checklists. Finally, to establish a unified standard for describing sequence data and to provide a single point of entry for the scientific community to access and learn about GSC checklists, we present the minimum information about any (x) sequence (MIxS). Adoption of MIxS will enhance our ability to analyze natural genetic diversity documented by massive DNA sequencing efforts from myriad ecosystems in our ever-changing biosphere.
A steep drop in the cost of next-generation sequencing during recent years has made the technology affordable to the majority of researchers, but downstream bioinformatic analysis still poses a resource bottleneck for smaller laboratories and institutes that do not have access to substantial computational resources. Sequencing instruments are typically bundled with only the minimal processing and storage capacity required for data capture during sequencing runs. Given the scale of sequence datasets, scientific value cannot be obtained from acquiring a sequencer unless it is accompanied by an equal investment in informatics infrastructure.
Cloud BioLinux is a publicly accessible Virtual Machine (VM) that enables scientists to quickly provision on-demand infrastructures for high-performance bioinformatics computing using cloud platforms. Users have instant access to a range of pre-configured command line and graphical software applications, including a full-featured desktop interface, documentation and over 135 bioinformatics packages for applications including sequence alignment, clustering, assembly, display, editing, and phylogeny. Each tool's functionality is fully described in the documentation directly accessible from the graphical interface of the VM. Besides the Amazon EC2 cloud, we have started instances of Cloud BioLinux on a private Eucalyptus cloud installed at the J. Craig Venter Institute, and demonstrated access to the bioinformatic tools interface through a remote connection to EC2 instances from a local desktop computer. Documentation for using Cloud BioLinux on EC2 is available from our project website, while a Eucalyptus cloud image and VirtualBox Appliance is also publicly available for download and use by researchers with access to private clouds.
Cloud BioLinux provides a platform for developing bioinformatics infrastructures on the cloud. An automated and configurable process builds Virtual Machines, allowing the development of highly customized versions from a shared code base. This shared community toolkit enables application specific analysis platforms on the cloud by minimizing the effort required to prepare and maintain them.
In the future, we hope to see an open and thriving data market in which users can find and select data from a wide range of data providers. In such an open access market, data are products that must be packaged accordingly. Increasingly, eCommerce sellers present heterogeneous product lines to buyers using faceted browsing. Using this approach we have developed the Ontogrator platform, which allows for rapid retrieval of data in a way that would be familiar to any online shopper. Using Knowledge Organization Systems (KOS), especially ontologies, Ontogrator uses text mining to mark up data and faceted browsing to help users navigate, query and retrieve data. Ontogrator offers the potential to impact scientific research in two major ways: 1) by significantly improving the retrieval of relevant information; and 2) by significantly reducing the time required to compose standard database queries and assemble information for further research. Here we present a pilot implementation developed in collaboration with the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC) that includes content from the StrainInfo, GOLD, CAMERA, Silva and Pubmed databases. This implementation demonstrates the power of ontogration and highlights that the usefulness of this approach is fully dependent on both the quality of data and the KOS (ontologies) used. Ideally, the use and further expansion of this collaborative system will help to surface issues associated with the underlying quality of annotation and could lead to a systematic means for accessing integrated data resources.
Point source norovirus outbreaks can be difficult to track due to high background levels of the virus in the environment and the limited strain variation in some genotyping regions. However, rapid and accurate source identification can limit the spread of a foodborne outbreak and reduce the number of cases. Harmonization of genotyping assays is critical for enabling the rapid exchange of sequence data nationally and internationally. Several regions of the genome have been proposed for this purpose, but no consensus has been reached. In the present study, two standardized genotyping protocols (region C and region D) were evaluated by nine laboratories in Canada and the United States, using a coded panel of 96 fecal specimens representing 22 different norovirus genotypes. Overall, region C typing had a success rate of 78% compared to 52% for region D; however, region D provides greater nucleotide sequence diversity for identifying new GII.4 variant strains. Significant differences in the genotyping success rate were observed among the nine participating laboratories (10% to 100%) and among the different genotypes (6% to 100%). For several genogroup II strains, reduced region D amplification correlated directly with mismatches between primer sequences and the template. Based on overall performance, we recommend the region C protocol for routine genotyping of noroviruses, while the region D protocol may be useful for identifying new GII.4 variants. Standardized genotyping protocols will enable rapid exchange of outbreak and sequence data through electronic norovirus surveillance networks.
The Minimum Information for Biological and Biomedical Investigations (MIBBI) project provides a resource for those exploring the range of extant minimum information checklists and fosters coordinated development of such checklists.
The systematic capture of appropriately annotated experimental data is a prerequisite for most bioinformatics analyses. Data capture is required not only for submission of data to public repositories, but also to underpin integrated analysis, archiving, and sharing – both within laboratories and in collaborative projects. The widespread requirement to capture data means that data capture and annotation are taking place at many sites, but the small scale of the literature on tools, techniques and experiences suggests that there is work to be done to identify good practice and reduce duplication of effort.
This paper reports on experience gained in the deployment of the Pedro data capture tool in a range of representative bioinformatics applications. The paper makes explicit the requirements that have recurred when capturing data in different contexts, indicates how these requirements are addressed in Pedro, and describes case studies that illustrate where the requirements have arisen in practice.
Data capture is a fundamental activity for bioinformatics; all biological data resources build on some form of data capture activity, and many require a blend of import, analysis and annotation. Recurring requirements in data capture suggest that model-driven architectures can be used to construct data capture infrastructures that can be rapidly configured to meet the needs of individual use cases. We have described how one such model-driven infrastructure, namely Pedro, has been deployed in representative case studies, and discussed the extent to which the model-driven approach has been effective in practice.
The SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) spike is the largest known viral spike molecule, and shares a similar function with all class 1 viral fusion proteins. Previous structural studies of membrane fusion proteins have largely used crystallography of static molecular fragments, in isolation of their transmembrane domains. In this study we have produced purified, irradiated SARS-CoV virions that retain their morphology, and are fusogenic in cell culture. We used cryo-electron microscopy and image processing to investigate conformational changes that occur in the entire spike of intact virions when they bind to the viral receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). We have shown that ACE2 binding results in structural changes that appear to be the initial step in viral membrane fusion, and precisely localized the receptor-binding and fusion core domains within the entire spike. Furthermore, our results show that receptor binding and subsequent membrane fusion are distinct steps, and that each spike can bind up to three ACE2 molecules. The SARS-CoV spike provides an ideal model system to study receptor binding and membrane fusion in the native state, employing cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle image analysis.
Influenza A viruses cause yearly epidemics, in part, due to their ability to overcome immunity from previous infections through acquisition of mutations. Amino acid sequences encoded by genes 4 (HA), 6 (NA), 7 (M), and 8 (NS) from 77 H3N2 influenza A isolates, collected between November 2003 and March 2005, were analyzed to determine the extent to which the viruses mutated within epidemic periods and between the epidemics. Nucleotide and amino acid sequences were stable throughout the epidemics but experienced substantial changes between epidemics. Major changes occurred in the HA gene in 5 to 7 amino acids and the NA gene in 11 to 13 amino acids and changes of 5 amino acids occurred in the M and NS genes. In the HA gene, changes occurred in sites known to be epitopes that determine the hemagglutination inhibition reactivity, and these were shown to be associated with a change of strain from A/Fujian/411/2002-like to A/California/7/2004-like viruses. Our findings indicate that genotype determination promises to be a rapid approach for detecting new strains of influenza A viruses in a population.
Two Canadian urban areas received travelers with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) before the World Health Organization issued its alert. By July 2003, Vancouver had identified 5 cases (4 imported); Toronto reported 247 cases (3 imported) and 43 deaths. Baseline preparedness for pandemic threats may account for the absence of sustained transmission and fewer cases of SARS in Vancouver.
SARS; emerging pathogens; outbreak; nosocomial infections; coronavirus; dispatch
Genome sequences of chicken (low pathogenic avian influenza [LPAI] and highly pathogenic avian influenza [HPAI]) and human isolates from a 2004 outbreak of H7N3 avian influenza in Canada showed a novel insertion in the HA0 cleavage site of the human and HPAI isolate. This insertion likely occurred by recombination between the hemagglutination and matrix genes in the LPAI virus.
avian influenza; genomic sequence; recombination; Homo sapiens; Virulence
The three-dimensional structure of expressed VP2 capsids of Aleutian mink disease parvovirus strain G (ADVG-VP2) has been determined to 22 Å resolution by cryo-electron microscopy and image reconstruction techniques. A structure-based sequence alignment of the VP2 capsid protein of canine parvovirus (CPV) provided a means to construct an atomic model of the ADVG-VP2 capsid. The ADVG-VP2 reconstruction reveals a capsid structure with a mean external radius of 128 Å and several surface features similar to those found in human parvovirus B19 (B19), CPV, feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), and minute virus of mice (MVM). Dimple-like depressions occur at the icosahedral twofold axes, canyon-like regions encircle the fivefold axes, and spike-like protrusions decorate the threefold axes. These spikes are not present in B19, and they are more prominent in ADV compared to the other parvoviruses owing to the presence of loop insertions which create mounds near the threefold axes. Cylindrical channels along the fivefold axes of CPV, FPV, and MVM, which are surrounded by five symmetry-related β-ribbons, are closed in ADVG-VP2 and B19. Immunoreactive peptides made from segments of the ADVG-VP2 capsid protein map to residues in the mound structures. In vitro tissue tropism and in vivo pathogenic properties of ADV map to residues at the threefold axes and to the wall of the dimples.