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Bioluminescent Bacteria as Biological Sensors for Toxic Agents in Food

Award No.: 
Principal Investigator: 
Evangelyn Alocilja
PI Organization: 
Michigan State University
The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of using luminescent bacteria as canaries for rapid non-specific and on-site detection of toxic contaminants in food products. The proof-of-concept results demonstrate that Vibrio fischeri bacteria can be used to detect toxins suspended in food matrices through bioluminescence quenching. Quenching was observed in food added with potassium cyanide at 5mg/kg (LD50, assuming a 75-kg person) and even at 80%, 60%, 40% and 20% of the LD50 (1mg/kg) in a 240-ml serving of skim milk. Quenching was also observed in food spiked with 615ppm of sodium hypochlorite. The assay from sample application to final detection was completed in less than 60 minutes. These results show that this biological sensor can be used for high-frequency testing at the last likely or highest impact contamination point. In this way, contaminated food products may be prevented from reaching the consumers. Furthermore, this biological sensor may be used as an inexpensive, highly renewable defense system of our food supply.
Analytic Methods Utilized: