Bio-sensor to make our food safer

December 31st, 2008 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 31 (IANS) A microscopic bio-sensor that detects Salmonella bacteria in lab tests has been developed by an agricultural scientist. People who eat Salmonella-infected food products can get salmonellosis, a disease characterised by nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhoea, and sometimes death.

The sensor could be adapted to detect other food-borne pathogens as well. It is part of an evolving science known as nanotechnology - the study and manipulation of materials on a molecular or even atomic level, measured in billionths of a metre.

There are examples of biosensors in nature. Insects detect tiny amounts of sex pheromones in the air and use them to find mates. And fish use natural bio-sensors to detect barely perceptible vibrations in the surrounding water.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Bosoon Park at the Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit in Athens, Georgia, and cooperators at the University of Georgia (U-G) used nanotechnology to develop the biosensor.

The detection method may have great potential for food safety and security, according to Park, said an U-G release.

The biosensors include fluorescent organic dye particles attached to Salmonella antibodies. The antibodies hook on to Salmonella bacteria and the dye lights up like a beacon, making the bacteria easier to see.

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