Faster detection of multiple pathogens in food using Crystal Diagnostics' MultiPath

Tuesday, 01 November, 2011


Each year, foodborne pathogens cause an estimated 48 million illnesses (affecting one in six people), 128,000 hospitalisations and 3000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So the need for faster detection of harmful pathogens in food is evident.

A rapid, reliable method that can test for multiple pathogens simultaneously will give food-safety assurance to farmers, food processors, distributors, retailers and ultimately to the public. The Crystal Diagnostics MultiPath system uses liquid crystals to detect multiple harmful pathogens in food in a single test, offering significant time savings over the most common testing methods.

Crystal Diagnostics’ technology includes two pieces of equipment. The first is a cassette containing five individual cells, two of which are control cells and three are test cells. A prepared (enriched) sample - from ground beef or lettuce, for example - is mixed with liquid crystals and an antibody or antibody cocktail for the pathogen or pathogens being sought. The second piece is a reader. The cassette is inserted into the reader. If the pathogen or pathogens being sought are present, the liquid crystal - aligned in the reader - will be disrupted. The reader recognises this disruption and displays the result on an iPad or other device in less than 30 minutes.

In addition to its speed, this technology offers other significant advantages:

  • A single test can detect multiple pathogens, for example, E. coli O157:H7 plus the other ‘Big Six’ E. coli strains and the strain that appeared in Germany in early 2011. This capability is particularly relevant in the US because the Food Safety and Inspection Service has announced it will require testing for E. coli strains other than O157:H7 beginning next year in beef trim used in ground beef.
  • In addition to these strains of E. coli, by utilising the three cells in the cassette independently, the test can detect Salmonella, and another pathogen, such as Listeria, in the same test.
  • The nature of the technology reduces false positives and negatives even before the built-in protection of the two control cells is considered. False positives require longer product holds while retesting is accomplished; false negatives represent a different and a vastly more serious problem for food producers.

This system is currently being further beta-tested in the field with leading food processing companies and laboratories.

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