Evaluation of the FilmArray® system for detection of Bacillus anthracis, Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis

J Appl Microbiol. 2013 Apr;114(4):992-1000. doi: 10.1111/jam.12107. Epub 2013 Jan 31.


Aims: To evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of the BioFire Diagnostics FilmArray(®) system in combination with their Biothreat Panel for the detection of Bacillus anthracis (Ba), Francisella tularensis (Ft) and Yersinia pestis (Yp) DNA, and demonstrate the detection of Ba spores.

Methods and results: DNA samples from Ba, Ft and Yp strains and near-neighbours, and live Ba spores were analysed using the FilmArray(®) Biothreat Panel, a multiplexed PCR-based assay for 17 pathogens and toxins. Sensitivity studies with DNA indicate that the limit of detection is 250 genome equivalents (GEs) per sample or lower. Furthermore, the identification of Ft, Yp or Bacillus species was made in 63 of 72 samples tested at 25 GE or less. With samples containing 25 CFU of Ba Sterne spores, at least one of the two possible Ba markers was identified in all samples tested. We observed no cross-reactivity with near-neighbour DNAs.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the FilmArray(®) Biothreat Panel is a sensitive and selective assay for detecting the genetic signatures of Ba, Ft and Yp.

Significance and impact of the study: The FilmArray(®) platform is a complete sample-to-answer system, combining sample preparation, PCR and data analysis. This system is particularly suited for biothreat testing where samples need to be analysed for multiple biothreats by operators with limited training.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus anthracis / genetics
  • Bacillus anthracis / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Francisella tularensis / genetics
  • Francisella tularensis / isolation & purification*
  • Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spores, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Yersinia pestis / genetics
  • Yersinia pestis / isolation & purification*


  • DNA, Bacterial