Researchers develop hi-tech kit to tackle food poisoning epidemics
UK researchers have developed a new technology which could lead to much quicker detection times for a variety of potentially fatal contaminants.
The project team, based at the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, believes its testing kit could reduce detection times for bugs such as Listeria and Salmonella from six days to just a
couple of hours. They hope to mass produce the technology by 2010.
‘The conventional methods for detecting food contamination used by industries and regulatory agencies are labour intensive, time consuming and costly. Our proposed technology offers for the
first time, at low cost, the simultaneous detection of multiple contaminants within five to eight hours, and has the potential to revolutionise the food safety industry and save lives through
prevention of food poisoning epidemics,’ commented project leader Dr Brajesh Singh.
The kit works by analysing a food sample for specific pathogens and can detect multiple microbial contaminants in food, water and environmental samples. This method allows dual detection of
pathogens and determines whether they are capable of producing toxins or whether they have antibiotic resistance. Because of this, it offers improved diagnostic potential to identify the source
of contamination and therefore save lives.
Although initially focused on contaminant detection in food and the environment, the team believes that the technology could have wider uses pertinent to forensic medicine and healthcare in the
The technology also has the potential to, in the future, rapidly detect hospital super bugs such as MRSA, said Dr Singh.
‘By proving the concept within two years, the project will achieve a technology that can be licensed to a range of industries or service providers in microbial diagnostics. It will also be
marketed through a spin-out company which will manufacture the necessary kits and create a service centre for the UK, leading to new job opportunities in Scotland. These jobs will be in food,
environmental and clinical industries,’ he added.
The project was funded by Scotland’s Enterprise’s Proof of Concept programme, and its aims are to sell products worldwide by 2010 via a spin-out company.