Ten PCR assays targeting five biological agents (Bacillus anthracis, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Francisella tularensis, and Yersinia pestis) were incorporated onto Array Cards. A comparison of PCR performance of each PCR in Array Card and singleplex format was conducted using DNA extracted from pure bacterial cultures. When 100 fg of agent DNA was added to Array Card channels the following levels of agent detection (where at least one agent PCR replicate returned a positive result) were observed: Y. pestis 100%, B. mallei & F. tularensis 93%; B. anthracis 71%; B. pseudomallei 43%. For B. mallei & pseudomallei detection the BPM2 PCR, which detects both species, outperformed PCR assays specific to each organism indicating identification of the respective species would not be reproducible at the 100 fg level. Near 100% levels of detection were observed when 100 fg of DNA was added to each PCR in singleplex format with singleplex PCRs also returning sporadic positives at the 10 fg per PCR level. Before evaluating the use of Array Cards for the testing of environmental and clinical sample types, with potential levels of background DNA and PCR inhibitors, users would therefore have to accept a 10-fold reduction in sensitivity of PCR assays on the Array Card format, in order to benefit for the capacity to test multiple samples for multiple agents. A two PCR per agent strategy would allow the testing of 7 samples for the presence of 11 biological agents or 3 samples for 23 biological agents per card (with negative control channels).
The article is published online in PLoS ONE and is free to access.