E.coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella are not weapons of mass destruction, they are weapons of mass disruption. Experts say it's not a matter of if but when terrorists will attempt a strike at our food or water supply. If they succeed, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Americans will become sick, and some among the youngest and oldest victims could die.
An early warning detection system is urgently needed. At Clemson University, researchers are developing a biosensor that will make contaminated food glow in the dark.
A team of chemists, microbiologists and food scientists have devised a way to tether luminescent molecules to food pathogens, such as E.coli, and Salmonella. Using nanotechnology, the researchers are building a new screening method to protect our food supply.
"What's needed is a simple, low cost way to rapidly detect pathogens at the site of contamination, not having to wait for lab results," said food science professor and team leader Paul Dawson. "What we have worked on are particles that are luminescent, providing a way to flash an alarm to hold the food for closer examination."
Chemists used a similar technique to identify worms in pecans. The worms would absorb a chemical that would glow under UV or "black" light. Dawson, along with professors Ya-Ping Sun, Xiuping Jiang, Feng Chen and James C. Acton, have miniaturized the process by applying nanotechnology, the science of building structures at molecular and atomic levels. It is not just the science of the very small, it is a technology, enabling the practical application of that knowledge by scientists who investigate arranging atoms to create innovations that can be seen only with electron microscopes.