Researchers in Switzerland have developed a detector for anthrax spores based on a monoclonal antibody that recognizes a specific sugar on the bacterium. Once inhaled, spores of Bacillus anthracis almost always kill, unless victims are treated within a day or two. According to Peter Seeberger of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich and colleagues there and at the Swiss Tropical Institute, and the University of Bern accurate and rapid diagnosis is therefore vital. The researchers have now developed a novel immunological approach to anthrax detection that promises to be just as accurate but far simpler to carry out than current detection methods. Their detector is based on detecting anthrose, a sugar unique to anthrax spore surface carbohydrates. Antibodies raised against anthrose respond only to anthrax spores and not to bacteria closely related to B. anthracis. "Our results demonstrate that small differences in the carbohydrates on cell surfaces can be used to obtain specific immune reagents," says Seeberger, "Our new antibodies will be used as the basis for highly sensitive anthrax diagnosis and will contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches."