Researcher Develops Sensor to Detect E.coli

Sep 24, 2006

As the Food and Drug Administration takes days to track down the source of the E. coli outbreak, Dr. Raj Mutharasan is optimizing a sensor that can enable growers to do the job themselves in a few minutes.

Mutharasan, a professor of chemical engineering at Drexel University, has developed an “intelligent” sensor technology that is precise, accurate and cheap. Costing just a few dollars, the sensor can provide a result within 10 minutes and can detect pathogens or bacteria, like E. coli, with a sensitivity of four cells per milliliter.

The standard detection process of E. coli bacteria in food processing takes about 24 hours. A sample is taken to a lab and placed on a nutrient agar. If E. coli is present, they will multiply on the auger and researchers can visibly identify them.

Mutharasan’s sensor can be placed into a palm-sized device that can be placed in the hands of food inspectors and growers, and is even cheap enough to one day enter the home.

The sensor uses E. coli antibodies to detect the bacteria in much the way that our bodies work. These antibodies are affixed to a narrow sliver of glass. Attached to the other end of the glass is a ceramic layer that generates voltage in response to applied mechanical stress.

A voltage is applied to the ceramic layer, making it expand and contract, causing the glass sliver to vibrate. The sensor detects changes in the glass sliver’s resonate frequency (the point where vibration is the greatest) and uses this to determine both the presence and concentration of E. coli bacteria.

Mutharasan is working with a company to commercialize the device and expects it to be in the hands of food safety experts soon. Other applications for the sensor technology include detecting prostate cancer without a biopsy and detecting Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: Drexel University

Explore further: A novel therapy for sepsis?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brighter future for bacteria detection

Mar 20, 2014

Ever wonder why fruits and vegetables sometimes hit the shelves contaminated by pathogenic bacteria such as listeria, E. coli, and salmonella?

NASA's next 'top model,' the fruit fly

Nov 14, 2013

NASA finds the common fruit fly—Drosophila melanogaster—quite an attractive "model," but not in the way you might think. This tiny insect is a biomedical research model that can reveal the basis for he ...

Detecting disease with a smartphone accessory

Jun 04, 2013

As antiretroviral drugs that treat HIV have become more commonplace, the incidence of Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of cancer linked to AIDS, has decreased in the United States. The disease, however, remains prevalent ...

Recommended for you

A novel therapy for sepsis?

4 hours ago

A University of Tokyo research group has discovered that pentatraxin 3 (PTX3), a protein that helps the innate immune system target invaders such as bacteria and viruses, can reduce mortality of mice suffering ...

Cellular protein may be key to longevity

Sep 15, 2014

Researchers have found that levels of a regulatory protein called ATF4, and the corresponding levels of the molecules whose expression it controls, are elevated in the livers of mice exposed to multiple interventions ...

Gut bacteria tire out T cells

Sep 15, 2014

Leaky intestines may cripple bacteria-fighting immune cells in patients with a rare hereditary disease, according to a study by researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland. The study, published in The Journal of Experimental Me ...

User comments : 0