Quick test method developed for fish toxin

Wednesday, 11 March, 2015

The recent scombroid poisoning scare will no doubt leave many consumers wary of purchasing seafood. In a case of perfect timing, Flinders University researchers have announced a revolutionary method to test for histamine in fish.

The method uses a microfluidic chip the size of a credit card that tests for histamine without the need for complex chemical additives. The microfluidic chip is fitted with electrodes that detect histamine levels as the sample passes through a tiny pipe in the plastic device.

“We extract different compounds form the fish in liquid form, and these compounds will pass through the device at different rates,” said Associate Professor Claire Lenehan, a lecturer in forensic and analytical chemistry at Flinders.

“We can tell what compounds are histamine and how much histamine is contained in the sample, based on the rate at which the compounds pass through the device.”

Associate Professor Lenehan says the method is much more efficient and cost effective than current testing methods.

“At the moment the extraction of compounds takes longer than the actual analysis because you have to pulverise the fish, add a chemical to turn it into a different chemical and then test it,” she said.

“It’s an indirect testing method because you’re not actually detecting histamine at all; you’re detecting a product of histamine. Our method is a much simpler way because all you do is extract the sample and pipette it into the device without having to chemically treat it first.”

The device could also be used by consumers who have histamine sensitivity to test foods before they consume them.

The research has been published in the international journal Analytical Methods.

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