Detecting Bacteria in Food or water samples is Now Possible With this Tool


Detecting Bacteria in Food or water samples is now possible with this new rapid and low-cost method, developed by a team of scientists.

Food scientist Lili He and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they have developed the tool should be useful to cooks using fresh fruits and vegetables, once available commercially.

An analytical chemist and expert in detection methods for food contamination, Lili said that people around the world cook vegetables before eating, but in the U.S., usually eat raw food so they got the idea that a quick test that can be done at home would be a good idea.

She also added that right now, microbial contamination is an important research topic, it has been a problem for a long time but now it is the prior concern for food safety in the U.S.

Lili, along with a food researcher, Lynne McLandsborough reported that new two-step method includes one optical, one chemical. For the findings, they designed a reliable and sensitive bacteria-detecting chip. We can test whether fresh cabbages or apple juice, for example, carry a bacterial load.

The chip was designed using a light microscope for optical detection and it relies on a “capture molecule,” 3-mercaptophenylboronic acid (3-MBPA) which attracts and binds to any bacteria.

According to a report, “Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy” (SERS), which is a chemical detection method relies on silver nanoparticles. The patenting process of the techniques is going on.

He says, “There are some others for culturing bacteria from food samples, that are faster, but they are not very sensitive or reliable because ingredients in the food can interfere with them. We show in our most recent paper that our method is both sensitive and reliable and it can give you results in less than two hours.”

He also added that the work is an initial process and she believes that the work can be continued with more funding for a practical application.

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Apurva Nagare
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