Automated Identification of Foodborne Pathogens

Period of Performance: 09/30/2006 - 03/31/2007


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Quantaspec Inc.
PO Box 163
Essex Junction, VT 05453
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The broad long term objective of this research is to develop systems for rapid, inexpensive testing of food, environmental and medical samples. These test systems will detect and identify hazards including: pathogenic bacteria, viruses, biotoxins, etc. The specific aim of this effort is to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach in identifying the presence/absence of foodborne pathogen simulant bacteria in the presence of food matrices, chemical inhibitors, and bacterial flora from multiple species. If successful, the proposed approach will enable more frequent, accurate, and economical food safety testing, reducing the incidence of foodborne illness. The proposed approach uses the infrared (IR) reflection spectra from samples to identify pathogens, eliminating the use of expensive chemical reagents. IR reflection spectra provide information about the chemical contents of the entire intact cell including RNA/DNA useful for identification, without the need for lysis. In Phase I, a number of pathogen simulant samples as well as a number of controls will be prepared. The IR spectra of these samples will be collected with a commercially available FTIR spectrometer. The collected spectra will be analyzed and identification algorithms developed. The performance of these algorithms will be verified, including the ability to function in the presence of interferents and chemical inhibitors. Finally, a new spectrometer will be designed capable of collecting spectra in a food processing plant. In Phase II, actual pathogens will be studied and the scope of the pathogens broadened to include viruses and biotoxins (saxitoxin). The new spectrometer will be fabricated and tested in a food processing environment.