NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Translational Genomics Research Institute last week said it and Northern Arizona University will use a $4.5 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a rapid diagnostic for melioidosis, a bacterial disease once used as a Cold War bioweapon and that is currently believed to be a biothreat.
TGen will conduct most of the work for the five-year project at its pathogen genomics and biodefense research facility in Flagstaff, Ariz. The researchers will also work with the Menzies School of Research in Darwin, Australia, to apply the biomarker-based diagnostic in clinical studies.
Melioidosis, also known as Whitmore’s disease, is caused by infection with the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, or Burk. It was developed as a bio-weapon during the Cold War by both the US and the Soviet Union, TGen Said. Although both programs were terminated, the potential for remnants may be a concern, TGen said.
"We have made great strides already with Burk and have identified genetic markers that predict the outcome of disease — essentially predicting whether or not a particular infection is destined to be fatal without prompt and aggressive treatment," said TGen’s director of Pathogen Genomics and NAU professor Paul Keim, a co-principal investigator on the program.
TGen said the aim is to create a tool to diagnose the disease in hours instead of days.
More information about the disease can be found here.