Researchers at Swinburne University of Technology are working to develop early detection of Campylobacter jejuni bacteria - a significant contributor to foodborne illness in Australia and around the world.
Current testing methods to detect the bacteria are time consuming, as growing samples for genotyping analysis takes three to four days, which can make tracing the origin of contamination difficult.
Swinburne PhD student Monir Ahmed has been focusing on more rapid ways to detect Campylobacter jejuni with the help of a research scholarship from the Victorian Department of Health.
Using samples from the University of Melbourne’s Microbiological Diagnostic Unit, Ahmed is working to identify a selection of toxin genes associated with the Campylobacter infection. He uses Swinburne’s MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer to accurately identify strain-specific metabolic fingerprints. The results are then fed into a database of different cell proteins allowing the comparison of new strains with those previously identified.
According to Professor Elena Ivanova, Ahmed’s PhD supervisor, this method enables faster analysis.
“You can get the preparation stage down to one day and then get the results through the MALDI-TOF in half an hour,” Ivanova said.
“This greatly reduces the time and effort required to identify the origin of a Campylobacter jejuni contamination, meaning that improved education, regulation or clean-up policies could be applied, therefore addressing some of the public health costs.”
The ultimate aim of the research is to develop a portable biosensor to assist in tracing the source of the Campylobacter contamination.