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L Arntzen and JA Frean (1997)

The laboratory diagnosis of plague


Several diagnostic methods for Yersinia pestis infections are available including culture, serological, molecular and chromatographic assays. These techniques may be applied to human clinical specimens as well as rodents and other animals sampled in the course of plague surveillance. All the methods have their merits depending on the time available and the information required. Time is of the essence in the diagnosis of plague. Rapid diagnostic techniques capable of detecting Y. pestis directly in clinical samples, infected animal tissue and fleas will facilitate speedy diagnosis. The culture methods are reliable but relatively slow and insensitive. The serological ELISA tests are sensitive but in the case of the antibody assay, rely on a detectectable humoral immune response. Antigen can be detected at an earlier stage in the infection. DNA probes lack sensitivity, as 10(5)-10(6) organisms are needed for reliable detection. The PCR is sensitive and can detect as few as 10 Y. pestis organisms, but cannot distinguish between live and dead bacteria. A recently-developed chromatographic assay is very specific and sensitive and takes only 10 minutes to obtain a result, but thorough field testing is awaited.

plague; Yersinia pestis; diagnosis; culture; serology; molecular biology; polymerase chain reaction
International Workshop on Rodent Biology and Integrated Pest Management in Africa, MOROGORO, TANZANIA, OCT 21-25, 1996
  • ISSN: 0777-6276

ISSN 2295-0451 (online version)
ISSN 0777-6279 (printed version)
impact factor 2015: 0,87.

Prof. Dr. Isa Schön
Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Vautierstraat 29
1000 Brussels, Belgium


Annales de la Société malacologique de Belgique
​Annales de la Société royale malacologique et zoologique de Belgique
Annales de la Société Royale Zoologique de Belgique
Belgian Journal of Zoology