Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Simple, Rapid Test Can Detect Tainted Milk Supply

11.09.2009
If bad guys or bad bugs are poisoning food, maybe some good bugs could spill the beans.

Amer AbuGhazaleh, a researcher from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Agricultural Sciences, and Salam Ibrahim, a food microbiologist from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, have shown that the combination of certain bacteria and a common purple dye can reveal the presence of toxins in milk in just a few hours.

“To date, detecting the presence of toxins or pesticides has only been possible by sending samples to a laboratory and waiting a few days for the results,” AbuGhazaleh said.

“An important step toward improving the safety of our dairy supply would be the development of an effective, simple and rapid test that would allow farmers or processors to detect the presence of foreign substances.”

AbuGhazaleh and Ibrahim first began thinking about developing a way to detect tainted milk quickly in 2007, after a series of food recalls shook the country.

“We were surprised at how much damage that caused, and people were so frightened,” AbuGhazaleh remembered.

The pair also harked back to fears, generated after 9/11, of mass poisonings caused by bioterrorists.

“It seemed like it wouldn’t be hard to contaminate the food supply -- intentionally or unintentionally -- especially with the poor level of security on the majority of farms today,” AbuGhazleh said.

They started with milk in part because AbuGhazaleh specializes in dairy cattle. But they also knew the milk supply was particularly vulnerable.

“A single load of contaminated milk from one dairy could spread that contamination quickly across a wide area as it mixed with milk from other dairies at the processing plant,” AbuGhazaleh noted.

After tossing around some ideas for a simple detection system, the scientists decided to focus on the bacteria that ferment lactose (milk’s sugars), producing lactic acid as they go.

“For one thing, these bacteria already exist in milk, so if you add some, you’re not doing anything strange,” AbuGhazaleh said.

"Second, they produce a change over time (the lactic acid) that we could monitor. If we didn’t see the change, we would know something was wrong.”

They began in 2008 with a few bacterial strains they already had and cyanide, also readily available. Experiments showed not only that the toxin could slow or stop lactic acid production but that this effect increased with the toxic load. Further, the effect appeared in less than four hours.

They then added purple dye to milk samples containing both toxins and bacteria and to samples containing only bacteria. After eight hours, dye in the non-toxic milk turned yellow, indicating the presence of increased lactic acid, while dye in the toxin-laden milk retained its original purple.

“This kind of color test could be performed by farmers themselves,” AbuGhazleh said.

“They could add the bacteria and the dye to a sample, leave it alone for a little while and then come back to see if there is any change in the color. If there isn’t, there are problems with the milk.

“The test won’t tell us what sort of toxin is in the milk; it only tells us there is something wrong. It’s like an alarm.”

Such an alarm could save society billions of dollars. In 2005, Stanford University researcher Lawrence M. Wein and then-graduate student Yifan Liu developed a mathematical model predicting what would happen if terrorists slipped four grams of botulinum toxin -- roughly the weight of a sugar cube -- into a single dairy holding tank, tanker truck or processing silo in California.

Their model showed that 400,000 people would sicken; some of those would die. The cost of treating the victims, the researchers said, would run to “tens of billions of dollars” -- and that does not include the further costs of tracing, recalling and discarding milk nor the effect of reduced milk purchases by frightened consumers.

With funding from the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research, AbuGhazaleh and Ibrahim now are expanding their study to include a wider range of bacteria and toxins.

“We want to see if there are bacteria that are more sensitive to toxins, which would allow us to see the effect in less time,” AbuGhazaleh said.

“We also want to find that ‘universal’ bacteria that would be sensitive to a wide range of toxins.”

AbuGhazleh presented the preliminary results in 2008 at the annual meeting of the American Dairy Sciences Association in Indianapolis.

“There was a lot of interest, particularly in potential commercial applications,” he said.

“That’s the main thrust of this project, but long term, we think the concept -- using naturally occurring microbes to detect contamination -- might extend to other food industries.”

K.C. Jaehnig | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.siu.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

nachricht Disrupted fat breakdown in the brain makes mice dumb
19.05.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>