Many food production facilities lack the equipment needed to detect pathogen contamination. Samples are mostly tested offsite while finished products are shipped for sale, before the results become available. Dr. Woubit Abdela, Dr. Temesgen Samuel, and Dr. Teshome Yehualaeshet at Tuskegee University have tinkered with a 30-year-old genetics tool to invent a fast and portable detection method.
The team started by programming a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) Microplate Array to detect unique genomic regions of 12 different foodborne and food-threat pathogens. They then adjusted this technology to identify 25 common Salmonella strains from a variety of foods. This work was then adapted for onsite monitoring and detection using a hand-held lab device developed for DNA detection.
For the typical scientist, the fun is what happens in the lab. But we can’t stop there. We need to ensure new technology gets developed and disseminated.
– Dr. Temesgen Samuel
But the team did not stop at detection. They figured out how to modify gold and magnetic nanoparticles to bind with salmonella DNA or specific receptors. This system sandwiches the bacteria between the two particles to enable the removal of Salmonella from the food using a magnetic device.
The researchers have secured patents for these innovations in hopes of licensing the technologies to food producers and government agencies in order to prevent foodborne outbreaks.