Implications of limits of detection of various methods for Bacillus anthracis in computing risks to human health

Amanda B. Herzog, S. Devin McLennan, Alok K. Pandey, Charles P. Gerba, Charles N. Haas, Joan B. Rose, Syed A. Hashsham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Used for decades for biological warfare, Bacillus anthracis (category A agent) has proven to be highly stable and lethal. Quantitative risk assessment modeling requires descriptive statistics of the limit of detection to assist in defining the exposure. Furthermore, the sensitivities of various detection methods in environmental matrices are vital information for first responders. A literature review of peer-reviewed journal articles related to methods for detection of B. anthracis was undertaken. Articles focused on the development or evaluation of various detection approaches, such as PCR, real-time PCR, immunoassay, etc. Real-time PCR and PCR were the most sensitive methods for the detection of B. anthracis, with median instrument limits of detection of 430 and 440 cells/ml, respectively. There were very few peer-reviewed articles on the detection methods for B. anthracis in the environment. The most sensitive limits of detection for the environmental samples were 0.1 CFU/g for soil using PCR-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), 17 CFU/liter for air using an ELISA-biochip system, 1 CFU/liter for water using cultivation, and 1 CFU/cm 2 for stainless steel fomites using cultivation. An exponential dose-response model for the inhalation of B. anthracis estimates of risk at concentrations equal to the environmental limit of detection determined the probability of death if untreated to be as high as 0.520. Though more data on the environmental limit of detection would improve the assumptions made for the risk assessment, this study's quantification of the risk posed by current limitations in the knowledge of detection methods should be considered when employing those methods in environmental monitoring and cleanup strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6331-6339
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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