Diagnostics Discovery Laboratory

CDC: Reported cases of tularemia in the USA 2003-2012

CDC: Reported cases of tularemia in the United States 2003-2012. Tularemia has been reported from all states except Hawaii, but is most common in the south central United States, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of Massachusetts, including Martha's Vineyard.

Tularemia is caused by infection with the Gram-negative bacterium Francisella tularensis. The CDC has classified this pathogen as a Category A Select Agent. Fewer than ten bacterial cells are estimated to be capable of causing infections in humans. In addition, the bacteria can be released via aerosol, which could potentially result in pneumonic tularemia that has a mortality rate of 30% in the absence of antibiotics. The live vaccine strain (LVS) has been used in humans however; it is not commonly administered in the United States because the basis of strain attenuation is not fully understood. A rapid diagnosis of tularemia is essential for proper treatment, however this can be challenging. Symptoms of tularemia are initially nonspecific and the disease can be confused with less pathogenic microbial infections. Serological assays for tularemia have been explored but the time to diagnosis following infection is clearly too long. These assays can only be accomplished following an antibody response to F. tularensis which develops ~10 days following infection. Therefore, the goal is to develop a point-of-care test for the identification of F. tularensis antigens early during infection. Our In vivo Microbial Antigen Discovery (InMAD) technology has identified F. tularensis antigens that are secreted or shed during an infection. These will serve as candidate diagnostic antigens for use in development of a rapid point-of-care assay for tularemia.

Project Investigator: David AuCoin, Ph.D. (Principal Investigator)

Grant support: Research that lead to the identification of F. tularensis antigens that are secreted during infection was funded by a New Opportunities grant from the Pacific Southwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID U54AI065359).

Tularemia pipeline