Yersinia pestis, the plague bacillus, has a rodent-flea-rodent life cycle but can also persist in the environment for various periods of time. There is now a convenient and effective test (F1-dipstick) for the rapid identification of Y. pestis from human patient or rodent samples, but this test cannot be applied to environmental or flea materials because the F1 capsule is mostly produced at 37°C. The plasminogen activator (PLA), a key virulence factor encoded by a Y. pestis-specific plasmid, is synthesized both at 20°C and 37°C, making it a good candidate antigen for environmental detection of Y. pestis by immunological methods. A recombinant PLA protein from Y. pestis synthesized by an Escherichia coli strain was used to produce monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). PLA-specific mAbs devoid of cross-reactions with other homologous proteins were further cloned. A pair of mAbs was selected based on its specificity, sensitivity, comprehensiveness, and ability to react with Y. pestis strains grown at different temperatures. These antibodies were used to develop a highly sensitive one-step PLA-enzyme immunoassay (PLA-EIA) and an immunostrip (PLA-dipstick), usable as a rapid test under field conditions. These two PLA-immunometric tests could be valuable, in addition to the F1-disptick, to confirm human plague diagnosis in non-endemic areas (WHO standard case definition). They have the supplementary advantage of allowing a rapid and easy detection of Y. pestis in environmental and flea samples, and would therefore be of great value for surveillance and epidemiological investigations of plague foci. Finally, they will be able to detect natural or genetically engineered F1-negative Y. pestis strains in human patients and environmental samples
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