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Devices Designed to Identify Pathogens in Food

19 June 2015

Researchers at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) in Mexico, have developed a technology capable of identifying pathogens in food and beverages and whether a product is free of microorganisms like E. coli or salmonella.

mexican food safety researchThe technique could work in the restaurant industry as a biosensor to detect in what conditions food is before being eaten in order to avoid possible gastrointestinal diseases.

Abdu Orduña Diaz, a researcher at IPN, carried out the work on the microfabrication of biosensors, devices with applications in biology.

The system can be developed to identify pathogens in food or beverages, as well as analysis the presence of pesticides in the agricultural sector.

The biosensor is an analytical tool or system composed of a biological material that may be an enzyme, antibody, DNA, whole cell, organelle, or combinations of them.

Once it comes into direct contact with a transducer system, the device, it converts the biochemical activity to be analysed in a quantifiable signal (indication).

Within the classification of biosensors, there are optical and electrochemical.

mexican food safety research pic 2The specialist at the Center for Applied Research in Biotechnology (CIBA-Tlaxcala) of the IPN said that in the development of this technology, spectroscopic techniques are used, such as infrared, which is a versatile non-destructive, easy technique to use and is based on the interaction of radiation with matter.

It is a controlled radiation that does not affect the person, who handles it.

"When radiation interacts with matter it generates reactions. We analyse them and obtain information on the sample investigated. Such techniques can be applied in the development of optical biosensors," said the Polytechnic specialist.

One application would be focused on the detection of pathogens in food.

This technology could work in the restaurant industry as a biosensor capable of detecting the condition of the food before eating to avoid possible gastrointestinal diseases.

"The tool could tell us whether the product is free of microorganisms, which may be the case of bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella."

The investigation is in an intermediate step of the analysis of materials transducers (devices) and in the near future could become a reality, once the ability to "build" thousands of BioMEMS - shaped as chips - so they are commercially feasible and the consumer can purchase at low cost.

The technology could also be applied in the detection of toxins or pesticides, particularly as there is a problem in rural Mexico with the use of uncontrolled substances.

Currently, scientific research work is being carried out in collaboration with the Mexican National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE), whose specialists provide expertise for the manufacture of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), analysis, and the characterisation of amorphous semiconductor materials, and in the design of integrated circuits and other similar areas.

"This collaboration has allowed us to find new methodologies for the development of electrochemical and optical biosensors, specifically applied in the food area,” said Abdu Orduña Diaz.

“The technology could have many applications, such as quality control of finished products, for example in perishable food imports it may serve to verify the conditions under which they are stored. "

June 2015

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