Source: Euiwon Bae/Purdue UniversitySource: Euiwon Bae/Purdue UniversityResearchers from Purdue University have developed a portable device for detecting pathogens in food associated with foodborne illnesses.

The silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) device relies on low light to indicate the presence of bacteria linked to foodborne illnesses within samples of food. The bioluminescent assay works in conjunction with an electrical circuit containing an amplifier, micro controller and comparator that transmits data to accompanying laptops and smartphones via Bluetooth.

To demonstrate how the device works, the team injected E. coli into samples of ground beef. After a period of incubation, the beef was introduced to a modified phage, or virus for bacteria, contained within an enrichment liquid. Once infected by the phage, the bacteria emitted light that was detectable using the SiPM.

According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates, 48 million people in the United States become sick each year following exposure to pathogens, including E. coli, in food. As such, there are several efforts underway to both prevent and detect pathogens associated with foodborne illnesses. For example, researchers at Penn State have developed a composite antimicrobial film to decrease the occurrence of foodborne illness outbreaks. Similarly, a team from McMaster University developed a transparent patch that will signal food contamination in real time while a team from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Malaysia is infusing turmeric oil in food packaging to prevent the growth of common food fungus.

The research appears in the journal Applied Optics.

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