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Enzyme detects and kills anthrax

Rockefeller University researchers report potential defense and rapid-detection system.

Nicole Johnston(nicolejohnston@yahoo.com)

Raymond Schuch and colleagues from Rockefeller University, New York, have identified an enzyme that kills Bacillus anthracis, and which can also be used to rapidly detect the presence of anthrax spores.

In the 22 August issue of Nature, Schuch et al. show that the bacteriolytic enzyme, PlyG lysin, protected a majority of mice infected with B. anthracis from dying. They also demonstrated that the enzyme can be used in a rapid-detection system that recognizes as few as 100 spores in a matter of minutes.

The Rockefeller group — led by microbiologist Vincent A. Fischetti — isolated the lysin from bacteriophage γ, a virus that specifically infects B. anthracis and is commonly used to identify the organism. Lysins are produced by double-stranded lytic phages and specifically target crucial carbohydrate targets in the cell wall of a particular bacterial species. During the phage lytic cycle, lysin is produced by...

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