Novel Approach Detects Food Contamination Using DNA Probe–Based Patch

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Researchers from McMaster University developed transparent patch, which can be used to detect pathogenic food contamination in packaged food products

New Jersey Department of Health reported outbreak of E. coli in four New Jersey counties on April 9, 2018. Six cases have been reported in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset, and Warren counties. Biochemists, mechanical, and chemical engineers at McMaster University reported that the y have developed a transparent test patch that can signal food contamination as soon as it takes place. The patch can be incorporated directly into food packaging to examine the contents for harmful pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), foodborne pathogens result in around 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths annually. Around 30% of those cases involve children five years old and younger. The new material is named as ‘Sentinel Wrap’ in tribute to the McMaster-based Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network, an interdisciplinary research network that worked on paper-based detection systems. The signaling technology for the food test was developed in the McMaster labs of biochemist Yingfu Li, Ph.D.

Researchers believe that this technology can effectively replace conventional expiry date format on food and drinks. It operates by triggering a signal in the packaging that can be analyzed by a smartphone or other simple device. Also, the test does not affect contents of the food package. Furthermore mass production of such a patch is estimated to be fairly cheap and simple, as the DNA molecules that detect food pathogens can be printed onto the test material.

Furthermore, researchers reported that same technology can be used for various applications. Bandages with the transparent patch can to indicate if wounds are infected. It can also be used to wrapping surgical instruments to ensure their sterility. The study was published in ACS Nano journal.

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