ALBANY, Calif.Scientists at USDAs Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have developed a new test strip that can detect botulism and provide results in less than 20 minutes. The new test provides a rapid, preliminary screening in the event of a bioterrorist threat, an outbreak of foodborne botulism in which the culprit food has not yet been pinpointed, or during other emergencies.
The strip fits snugly into a holder like those in pregnancy test kits for at-home use. Only a small amount of prepared sample is needed, and the results, shown on a color display, are easy to see and understand. The strip is equipped with laboratory-built proteins, known as monoclonal antibodies, which bind exclusively to A- or B-type (serotype) botulinum toxins. Together, these types are responsible for more than 80% of all cases of foodborne botulism in the United States.
Using monoclonal antibodies in a lateral-flow device to detect botulinum toxins isn't new; however, the test is likely the first of its kind that can concurrently detect and differentiate the A and B serotypes. The botulinum investigations, highlighted in the February 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, support the USDA priority of improving food safety. The scientists are continuing to seek collaborations with test-kit developers and manufacturers to expand the test strip's food safety, medical and homeland security applications.