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Pre-Symptomatic Diagnostics and Treatments of Diseases Caused by Biothreat Agents

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There is a clear, escalating concern in the world about the threat of biological weapons. While these concerns have been raised in recent years and have been addressed to some extent for first responders including the military, diplomatic, law enforcement, and intelligence communities, the civilian population ...

There is a clear, escalating concern in the world about the threat of biological weapons. While these concerns have been raised in recent years and have been addressed to some extent for first responders including the military, diplomatic, law enforcement, and intelligence communities, the civilian population has not received the same kind of similar support on similar issues.

The NATO handbook dealing with potential biological warfare agents lists 31 infectious agents. Only a very small number of these, however, can be cultivated and dispersed effectively so as to cause cases and deaths in numbers that would threaten the functioning of a large community. Other factors also determine which microbes are of priority concern: specifically, the possibility of further human-to-human spread, the environmental stability of the organism, the size of the infectious dose, and the availability of prophylactic or therapeutic measures.

Along these lines, the risk posed by the natural or manmade spread of biological agents among the population dictates a need for better national and international preparedness. A common trait to all of the potential bioterrorism agents is the fact that they are likely to be disseminated by either aerosol or in food/water supplies with the intention of targeting the mucosal surfaces of the respiratory or gastrointestinal tracts. These modes of spread not only affect humans but also livestock and poultry. Although containment of such an outbreak may be manageable, it would likely strike fear in people, damage large and small economy, and/or threaten social stability. Therefore, both intentional and unintentional use of select agents is a serious concern, and studies associated with diagnostics and therapeutics related to these agents is significant.

The current theme of the “Frontiers in Microbiology” is on a topic that is of great interest to many researchers and public in general. The main theme of these articles (either review and/or original articles) would be on the state of the art diagnostic and treatment regimens. The topics can range from diagnostics of pathogens in a pre-symptomatic phase all the way to treatment using either specific regimens or against the host cell when specific inhibitors are not available. For instance, such a scenario is envisioned, where an aerosol release of replicating bacteria or virus in a closed environment, such as a Metro, could be detected by diagnostic measures including nanoparticles to concentrate pathogens within the first few hours of the attack. The early diagnostic approach will determine the nature of the pathogen using nucleic acid-based or other “omic” detection methods. The second part of these articles will focus on treatment utilizing cellular host signal transduction pathways common to viral and bacterial pathogens, where specific signal transduction nodes will be targeted by both non-FDA- and FDA-approved drugs. The overall goal is therefore not only to have articles that discuss diagnosis of the pathogens early on, but also to have a set of inhibitors that would allow the host to survive an attack and provide sufficient time for the host to recover.


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