New technique could speed up detection of bacteria-tainted food

Jan. 29, 2014 at 4:21 PM
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HOUSTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Researchers in Texas say they've developed a faster method to detect bacteria-tainted food and prevent illnesses such as food poisoning from Salmonella.

Events such as the recent recall of more than 33,000 pounds of chicken show the need for better bacterial detection long before meats and produce make it to the dinner table, scientists at Rice University said.

A Rice study published in the journal Analytical Chemistry said while conventional methods to detect harmful bacteria in food are reliable and inexpensive they can be complicated, time-consuming and thus allow contamination to go undetected.

Researcher Sibani Biswal and colleagues have developed a technique using an array of tiny "nanomechanical cantilevers" anchored at one end, kind of like little diving boards, coated with peptides that bind to Salmonella.

When the Salmonella bacteria bind to the peptides, the cantilever arms bend, creating a signal showing the pathogen is present, the university reported Wednesday.

The peptide could tell eight different types of Salmonella apart from each other, the researchers said, noting the technique could be applied to other common food pathogens as well.

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