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Firefly glow can detect bacteria in foods

March 20, 2012 at 6:31 PM   |   Comments

CARDIFF, England, March 20 (UPI) -- A chemical that causes the glow in fireflies can be used to detect bacterial contamination such as salmonella and E. coli in food, British scientists say.

A test developed at Cardiff University can quickly and simply scan for the presence of bacteria, something that usually has to be done in a laboratory, they said.

The contamination in a food sample placed in the university's Bioluminescent Assay in Real-Time tester triggers the chemical luciferase, which is found in fireflies, and causes the chemical to glow, the BBC reported Tuesday.

"The food industry has been looking for dependable, fast and convenient microbiological testing for a long time," Cardiff researcher Jim Murray said.

The BART device can produce results in 10 minutes to an hour, researchers said, depending on the number of organisms being tested for.

Further research is aimed at modifying the system to test for diseases, including HIV-AIDS, Murray said.

"Patients need to be continuously tested for their viral loads so that their treatment dosage can be adjusted.

"At the moment, this requires laboratory facilities which are in short supply in Africa," he said. "We hope to create a device which can be used easily in those countries."

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