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Nano sensor slashes pathogen detection time, inventors claim

By Ahmed ElAmin , 06-Dec-2006

A handheld sensor under development uses nanoparticles to detect foodborne bacteria in 15 minutes, its inventors claim.

Scientist Su Dwarkanath and her husband Sri Satyanarayana, and engineer, are targeting thenew sensor at a tool for the quick dectection of e-coli and other pathogens in foods. It can normaltesting can take up to 24 hours they claim.

The device offers a way to speed up detection, allowing processors to release products fordistribution earlier and to spot contamination problems before goods leave the plant.

The couple have formed Nano Science Diagnostics (NSD), a company based in Austin, Texas. Thecompany is developing the technology for food distributors and public health authorities.

Dwarkanath developed the technology during research she did for the US army, which was looking for a way to detectanthrax quickly in extremely low concentrations in public spaces such as a building. The two have created a kit, cartridge and hand held instrument and their company is now in the testing mode.

The transformation of the technology involves an adaptation of a scientific discovery involving nanoparticles into a convenient, hand held instrument, a task of " no mean feat", she said in a pressrelease.

There are many tests available to detect bacteria. Under usual methods a contaminated sample must be cultured in a laboratory setting - aprocess that can take at least 24 hours.

"There is no known scientific method to expedite this process," Dwarkanath claimsin a press release. "If, one the other hand, a simple inexpensive hand


held instrument can detect bacteria in 15 minutes, tests could be conducted more frequently and as a matter of routine in a variety of locations and distribution points, thus ensuring complete safety of thenation's food supply."

NSD claims its technology has passed reliability testing, and is also far more sensitive than other strip tests in the market.

As of now, the company has completed work to detect food pathogens such as e-coli,salmonella, and listeria.

Dwarkanath has a doctorate in molecular biology. Her husband,Satyanarayana, has a doctorate. in electronics.

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