An Indian-origin researcher is leading a research team in Scotland to develop a testing kit, which will help save thousands of lives by detecting a host of fatal food-poisoning bugs in as little as five hours. Dr Brajesh Singh says that the device will be capable of dramatically reducing the detection time for food-borne diseases like E coli, campylobacter, listeria and salmonella from the current six days routinely required.
The device has already been tested successfully in the laboratories of the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen. Dr. Singh hopes that the new device may eventually be helpful in detecting human pathogens, including the killer MRSA bug. "The conventional methods for detecting food contamination used by industries and regulatory agencies are labour-intensive, time-consuming and costly," the Scotsman quoted him as saying.
"Our technology offers for, the first time, at low cost, the simultaneous detection of multiple contaminants within five to eight hours and has the potential to revolutionise the food safety industry and save lives through prevention of food-poisoning epidemics," he added. He also revealed that 246,000 pounds have been provided by Scottish Enterprise for the project. According to him, the testing kit may be launched in the markets by 2010 through a spin-out company.
The new system will work by analysing DNA samples extracted from samples of food, water or soil. It will run a DNA sequence to discover the presence of bacteria. "The potential of this method is massive. Early detection could help save lives. Current analysis can sometimes take even weeks, depending on the organism you are looking for. It is five to six days for salmonella and even longer for listeria. But this method will allow us to bring back samples to a lab and do the analysis within five to eight hours maximum," said Dr. Singh.
Furthermore, the new system will enable the detection of a range of organisms at the same time. "We believe that this technology provides a real opportunity to make Scotland a world leader in microbial diagnostics and industrial microbiology. The project will allow Scotland to compete with North America and Europe in this growing market," said Dr. Singh.
Professor Hugh Pennington, Scotland's leading microbiologist, said: "If it's as good as it's cracked up to be, it will be extremely valuable. Particularly with MRSA, the sooner you get a result, the better."