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Mayo Clinic touts new test to detect anthrax quickly

ROCHESTER, Minnesota (CNN) -- The Mayo Clinic announced Monday that it has developed a DNA test in conjunction with an outside pharmaceutical company that could rapidly detect anthrax in humans and the environment.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not plan to use it at this time, according to a CDC source.

"CDC officials are consulting with the Mayo Clinic, but the CDC has not done research to validate this test," he told CNN.

Current tests for detecting anthrax DNA take several hours but must be conducted only at certain laboratories. The Mayo Clinic said its new test will allow local laboratories to conduct the tests, which will reduce that time to less than an hour.

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"When a person is suspected to be exposed to anthrax, the first thing they want to know is whether the agent was in fact anthrax," said Dr. Franklin Cockerill, a microbiologist at the Mayo Clinic. "Right now, local labs can quickly determine the presence of bacterium but can't tell whether it is anthrax or not."

The test has been administered in the laboratory and has not been conducted on an infected person.

Cockerill said the new test is "extremely accurate" in the lab setting.

Some medical experts have raised concerns that the test could show a false negative for victims of inhalation anthrax because its spores lie dormant in the body days before germinating the anthrax bacteria. Inhalation anthrax would show up in the blood only after it germinates, which could remain undetected by this test.

Mayo Clinic worked in conjunction with Roche Molecular Biochemicals to develop the test. They were able to have initial kits ready in four weeks, said Juergen Flach of Roche.

The Rochester clinic also has been working with the federal government to make the test formula available to federal agencies that request it.

"We want to be able to tell as soon as possible if this is anthrax," said Roche marketing manager James Floeberg.


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