Real-time food pathogen detection

Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Real-time food pathogen detection

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne pathogens sicken about 48 million people and kill about 3000 each year. Pro rata the incidence in Australia would be very similar. In the US, food manufacturers spend nearly $3 billion each year on food safety tests.

Imagine if the foodborne pathogens could be detected in real time. Contaminated food would be less likely to reach consumers and the disease load on the community would be reduced. Now, a Purdue University technology is looking like it could ultimately deliver real-time pathogen detection.

Purdue’s technology involves using a biochip to collect and analyse microbes in food samples. The innovation also uses enzyme formulations and software to analyse food microorganisms within four hours, instead of the current two to four days it typically takes.

Michael Ladisch, a Purdue distinguished professor of agricultural and biological engineering, Eduardo Ximenes, a senior research scientist at Purdue’s Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering, and their research team won the grand prize in the 2014 FDA Food Safety Challenge for their automated filtration technology to detect Salmonella. They have now enhanced the technology to allow multiple samples to be tested at the same time and to test for other foodborne illnesses such as E. coli O157:H7.

“Our technology continues to make giant leaps in health and preventing more people from being sickened by foodborne illnesses,” Ladisch said.

“The other great advancement we have made since 2014 is the ability to test up to four samples at once, and we are continuing to increase that number,” Ximenes said. “A foodborne illness outbreak results in hundreds of samples being sent to the FDA each day, so making the process faster is critically important.”

 A biochip is used to collect and analyse microbes in food samples and speeds up the process to detect foodborne illnesses. Image courtesy Michael Ladisch.

The researchers have worked with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization on patents for their innovation and are looking for partners to test and commercialise their technology.

Top image credit: ©

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