Researchers introduce rapid diagnostic test for Listeria

Phys Org

Researchers in the University of Georgia College of Engineering are developing a new way to detect potentially deadly Listeria contamination in food.

Listeriosis, an infection caused by eating food contaminated by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, can cause severe illness in pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Listeria is the third leading cause of death from foodborne illness, or food poisoning, in the United States. An estimated 1,600 people get sick each year and about 260 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Currently, Listeria contamination in food products is identified only through molecular tests conducted in diagnostic laboratories on samples taken at specific control points during the manufacturing and distribution process. Although very accurate, this method requires significant processing time, transportation of samples, and expensive skilled labour and equipment.

In a new study published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, UGA researchers introduce a rapid diagnostic method based on electrochemical biosensing principles. Electrochemical biosensors are promising alternatives to molecular detection methods because of their ease of use, high specificity, sensitivity and low cost, according to the researchers.

The UGA researchers use bacteriophages, viruses that infect and replicate within bacteria, as bioreceptors to identify L. monocytogenes using an electrochemical sensor.

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