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1.  Reliable identification at the species level of Brucella isolates with MALDI-TOF-MS 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:267.
The genus Brucella contains highly infectious species that are classified as biological threat agents. The timely detection and identification of the microorganism involved is essential for an effective response not only to biological warfare attacks but also to natural outbreaks. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) is a rapid method for the analysis of biological samples. The advantages of this method, compared to conventional techniques, are rapidity, cost-effectiveness, accuracy and suitability for the high-throughput identification of bacteria. Discrepancies between taxonomy and genetic relatedness on the species and biovar level complicate the development of detection and identification assays.
In this study, the accurate identification of Brucella species using MALDI-TOF-MS was achieved by constructing a Brucella reference library based on multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) data. By comparing MS-spectra from Brucella species against a custom-made MALDI-TOF-MS reference library, MALDI-TOF-MS could be used as a rapid identification method for Brucella species. In this way, 99.3% of the 152 isolates tested were identified at the species level, and B. suis biovar 1 and 2 were identified at the level of their biovar. This result demonstrates that for Brucella, even minimal genomic differences between these serovars translate to specific proteomic differences.
MALDI-TOF-MS can be developed into a fast and reliable identification method for genetically highly related species when potential taxonomic and genetic inconsistencies are taken into consideration during the generation of the reference library.
PMCID: PMC3314589  PMID: 22192890
2.  High throughput MLVA-16 typing for Brucella based on the microfluidics technology 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:60.
Brucellosis, a zoonosis caused by the genus Brucella, has been eradicated in Northern Europe, Australia, the USA and Canada, but remains endemic in most areas of the world. The strain and biovar typing of Brucella field samples isolated in outbreaks is useful for tracing back source of infection and may be crucial for discriminating naturally occurring outbreaks versus bioterrorist events, being Brucella a potential biological warfare agent. In the last years MLVA-16 has been described for Brucella spp. genotyping. The MLVA band profiles may be resolved by different techniques i.e. the manual agarose gels, the capillary electrophoresis sequencing systems or the microfluidic Lab-on-Chip electrophoresis. In this paper we described a high throughput system of MLVA-16 typing for Brucella spp. by using of the microfluidics technology.
The Caliper LabChip 90 equipment was evaluated for MLVA-16 typing of sixty-three Brucella samples. Furthermore, in order to validate the system, DNA samples previously resolved by sequencing system and Agilent technology, were de novo genotyped. The comparison of the MLVA typing data obtained by the Caliper equipment and those previously obtained by the other analysis methods showed a good correlation. However the outputs were not accurate as the Caliper DNA fragment sizes showed discrepancies compared with real data and a conversion table from observed to expected data was created.
In this paper we described the MLVA-16 using a rapid, sophisticated microfluidics technology for detection of amplification product sizes. The comparison of the MLVA typing data produced by Caliper LabChip 90 system with the data obtained by different techniques showed a general concordance of the results. Furthermore this platform represents a significant improvement in terms of handling, data acquiring, computational efficiency and rapidity, allowing to perform the strain genotyping in a time equal to one sixth respect to other microfluidics systems as e.g. the Agilent 2100 bioanalyzer.
Finally, this platform can be considered a valid alternative to standard genotyping techniques, particularly useful dealing with a large number of samples in short time. These data confirmed that this technology represents a significative advancement in high-throughput accurate Brucella genotyping.
PMCID: PMC3078841  PMID: 21435217
3.  Lab on a chip genotyping for Brucella spp. based on 15-loci multi locus VNTR analysis 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9:66.
Brucellosis is an important zoonosis caused by the genus Brucella. In addition Brucella represents potential biological warfare agents due to the high contagious rates for humans and animals. Therefore, the strain typing epidemiological tool may be crucial for tracing back source of infection in outbreaks and discriminating naturally occurring outbreaks versus bioterroristic event. A Multiple Locus Variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR) Analysis (MLVA) assay based on 15 polymorphic markers was previously described. The obtained MLVA band profiles may be resolved by techniques ranging from low cost manual agarose gels to the more expensive capillary electrophoresis sequencing. In this paper a rapid, accurate and reproducible system, based on the Lab on a chip technology was set up for Brucella spp. genotyping.
Seventeen DNA samples of Brucella strains isolated in Sicily, previously genotyped, and twelve DNA samples, provided by MLVA Brucella VNTR ring trial, were analyzed by MLVA-15 on Agilent 2100. The DNA fragment sizes produced by Agilent, compared with those expected, showed discrepancies; therefore, in order to assign the correct alleles to the Agilent DNA fragment sizes, a conversion table was produced. In order to validate the system twelve unknown DNA samples were analyzed by this method obtaining a full concordance with the VNTR ring trial results.
In this paper we described a rapid and specific detection method for the characterization of Brucella isolates. The comparison of the MLVA typing data produced by Agilent system with the data obtained by standard sequencing or ethidium bromide slab gel electrophoresis showed a general concordance of the results. Therefore this platform represents a fair compromise among costs, speed and specificity compared to any conventional molecular typing technique.
PMCID: PMC2674449  PMID: 19351390
4.  Fieldable genotyping of Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis based on 25-loci Multi Locus VNTR Analysis 
BMC Microbiology  2008;8:21.
Anthrax and plague are diseases caused by Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis respectively. These bacteria are etiological agents for worldwide zoonotic diseases and are considered among the most feared potential bioterror agents. Strain differentiation is difficult for these microorganisms because of their high intraspecies genome homogeneity. Moreover, fast strain identification and comparison with known genotypes may be crucial for naturally occurring outbreaks versus bioterrorist events discrimination.
Thirty-nine B. anthracis and ten Y. pestis strains, representative of the species genetic diversity, were genotyped by Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer using previously described Multiple Locus VNTR Analysis assays (MLVA). Results were compared to previous data obtained by standard genotyping system (capillary electrophoresis on automatic sequencer) and, when necessary, direct amplicon sequencing. A reference comparison table containing actual fragment sizes, sequencer sizes and Agilent sizes was produced.
In this report an automated DNA electrophoresis apparatus which provides a cheaper alternative compared to capillary electrophoresis approaches was applied for genotyping of B. anthracis and Y. pestis. This equipment, uses pre-cast gels and provides easy transportation, low maintenance and overall general logistic requirements and costs, is easy to set up and provides rapid analysis. This platform is a candidate for on-site MLVA genotyping of biothreat agents as well as other bacterial pathogens. It is an alternative to the more expensive and demanding capillary electrophoresis methods, and to the less expensive but more time-consuming classical gel electrophoresis approach.
PMCID: PMC2257963  PMID: 18230125
5.  Genotyping of Bacillus anthracis strains based on automated capillary 25-loci Multiple Locus Variable-Number Tandem Repeats Analysis 
BMC Microbiology  2006;6:33.
The genome of Bacillus anthracis, the etiological agent of anthrax, is highly monomorphic which makes differentiation between strains difficult. A Multiple Locus Variable-number tandem repeats (VNTR) Analysis (MLVA) assay based on 20 markers was previously described. It has considerable discrimination power, reproducibility, and low cost, especially since the markers proposed can be typed by agarose-gel electrophoresis. However in an emergency situation, faster genotyping and access to representative databases is necessary.
Genotyping of B. anthracis reference strains and isolates from France and Italy was done using a 25 loci MLVA assay combining 21 previously described loci and 4 new ones. DNA was amplified in 4 multiplex PCR reactions and the length of the resulting 25 amplicons was estimated by automated capillary electrophoresis. The results were reproducible and the data were consistent with other gel based methods once differences in mobility patterns were taken into account. Some alleles previously unresolved by agarose gel electrophoresis could be resolved by capillary electrophoresis, thus further increasing the assay resolution. One particular locus, Bams30, is the result of a recombination between a 27 bp tandem repeat and a 9 bp tandem repeat. The analysis of the array illustrates the evolution process of tandem repeats.
In a crisis situation of suspected bioterrorism, standardization, speed and accuracy, together with the availability of reference typing data are important issues, as illustrated by the 2001 anthrax letters event. In this report we describe an upgrade of the previously published MLVA method for genotyping of B. anthracis and apply the method to the typing of French and Italian B. anthracis strain collections. The increased number of markers studied compared to reports using only 8 loci greatly improves the discrimination power of the technique. An Italian strain belonging to the B branch was described, and two new branches, D and E, are proposed. Owing to the upgrading achieved here, precise genotyping can now be produced either by automated capillary electrophoresis, or by the more accessible but slower and for some markers slightly less accurate agarose gel methodology.
PMCID: PMC1479350  PMID: 16600037

Results 1-5 (5)