Early diagnosis of pathogen infection by cell-based activation immunoassay

Erez Bar-Haim, Shahar Rotem, Uri Elia, Adi Bercovich-Kinori, Ma’ayan Israeli, Inbar Cohen-Gihon, Ofir Israeli, Noam Erez, Hagit Achdout, Ayelet Zauberman, Moshe Aftalion, Emanuelle Mamroud, Theodor Chitlaru, Ofer Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diagnostic identification of pathogens is usually accomplished by isolation of the pathogen or its substances, and should correlate with the time and site of infection. Alternatively, immunoassays such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests for quantification of serum antibodies are expedient and are usually employed for retrospective diagnostic of a particular infective agent. Here, the potential of cell-based immunoassays for early pathogen detection was evaluated by quantification of specific, antigen-activated, low-frequency IFNγ-secreting cells in mouse spleens following infection with various pathogens. Using enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays, specific responses were observed within 3-6 days following infection with F. tularensis, B. anthracis, Y. pestis, or Influenza virus. Blood samples collected from F. tularensis-infected mice revealed the presence of IFNγ-producing activated cells within one week post infection. When non-human primates were infected with B. anthracis, cellular response was observed in peripheral blood samples as early as five days post infection, 3-5 days earlier than serum antibodies. Finally, the expression pattern of genes in splenocytes of F. tularensis-infected mice was inspected by a transcriptomic approach, enabling the identification of potential host targets for the future development of genetic-based cellular immunoassays. Altogether, the data demonstrate the potential of cell-based immunoassays for early pathogen detection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number952
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal models
  • Bacillus anthracis
  • Early detection
  • Francisella tularensis
  • Infection biomarkers
  • Influenza virus
  • Lymphocyte activation
  • Lymphocyte transcriptomics
  • Yersinia pestis


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