Rapid Detection of Mycotoxins

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Lynntech, Inc.
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


The risk of contamination of grains and other field crops by mycotoxins, a toxic byproduct of mold infestations affecting as much as one-quarter of global food and feed crop output, is a very important food safety concern. The economic effects attributed to mycotoxin infection are widely felt in all sectors of the production and consumption of grain products. Grain producers are affected by limited yields, restricted end markets, and price discounts. Grain handlers are affected by restricted storage options, cost of testing grain lots, and loss of end markets. The estimated cost related to mycotoxins in U.S. and Canada is $5 billion/year. Food contaminated with mycotoxins can sometimes cause fatal acute illness and is associated with increased cancer risk from long-term exposure. Among the mycotoxins, trichothecene mycotoxins are extremely hazardous to humans. Exposure to even nano gram quantities of trichothecene mycotoxins, such as T-2 toxin, can cause severe reactions. Central nervous systems injury, as well as gastrointestinal and hematological toxicity can occur from ingestion or inhalation of very small quantities of these toxins. To protect consumers from these health risks, many countries, including the United States, have adopted regulations to limit exposure to mycotoxins, often taking the form of product standards. However, currently available enzyme based immuno assays (ELISA) kits for detection of such toxins requires use of antibodies, enzymes and incubation for the signal enhancement and hence take relatively long time, and are also expensive. The ELISA kits usually need to be stored under controlled environment and also involves sample preparation and use of several reagents, and are generally not suitable for field applications. Thus, there is a great need for a simple, convenient, cost effective and field deployable mycotoxin detection system. To address the need we are proposing to develop a simple battery operated handheld system that utilizes disposable micro-cartridges without any bio-molecules like antibodies or enzymes for rapid detection of tricothecene mycotoxins in grains, other field crops and water. The proposed hand-held rapid mycotoxin detection system has a broad potential commercial application in detection of trichothecene mycotoxins in food, feed and water under various settings because of its ease of use, speed, portability and competitive cost. In addition, the proposed technology also addresses a critical need of first responders, fire departments and the military to field-test for possible mycotoxin contaminations.