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Researchers from the CEA-iBiTec-S have developed rapid
detection tests against the plague-causing agent Yersinia pestis, to
detect the bacillus in the environment. Because plague has not yet been
The WHO classifies plague as a “re-emerging disease” because
the bacillus Yersinia pestis has resurfaced in certain parts of the
world, particularly in Africa and in countries of the former USSR. The
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar are among the list of new
outbreaks. In addition, two cases were detected in the United States in June
2012, two cases in Algeria in 2003 and 2008, and several cases were reported in
Libya in 2009. The principal modes of transmission of plague are rodents and
fleas. Moreover, plague is classified by the CDC  as a category A agent, in
its list of agents that could be used as bioterrorism weapons.
For these reasons, it is important to have available rapid tests for
environmental detection of Yersinia pestis. To meet this objective,
anitbodies must be developed that can detect a protein fulfilling different
criteria. This protein must be specific to Yersinia pestis, exposed at
the surface of the bacteria, expressed well at 20° C, and involved in the
virulence of the bacteria. Monoclonal antibodies directed against the protein
PLA (Plasminogen Activator), which meet these specifications, were
produced and characterized. Two types of tests were then developed: a rapid
detection test with dipsticks for quick and easy use in the field
(PLA-dipstick), and an enzyme immunoassay test used in the
laboratory (PLA-EIA). Both tests showed a very good specificity (no
recognition of strains close to Yersinia pestis), and a good sensitivity
. These tests could also be used to evaluate the infectivity of fleas (the
vector of plague), and for diagnosis in humans.
Link to the publication
 Centers for Disease Control and prevention
The detection limit is 2.105 cfu/ml for the PLA-EIA test, and 106
cfu/dipstick for the PLA-dipstick test, for Yersinia pestis grown at 20°
Fast and simple detection of Yersinia pestis applicable to field investigation of plague foci.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.