A THOMASIAN alumna has developed a cost-effective method for detecting food-borne bacterial toxins.

Philippine American Academy of Science and Engineering (PAASE) researcher Dr. Marjorie Medina said latex agglutination assay, an economic form of detecting antigens, can be used to visually detect toxins.

If the reaction takes place, the latex suspension changes its uniform appearance and produces a clear agglutination, the union of small particles that are suspended in solution, indicating a content of a certain protein in the serum, which shows the presence of bacterial toxins.

In her paper titled “Analysis of Staphylococcal Enterotoxins (SEs),” Medina said humans are the primary source of SE outbreaks. But she said bacteria can also grow in foods. Although heat processing and normal cooking temperatures kill normal bacterial cells, SEs are heat-stable.

Staphylococcal food-borne illnesses like diarrhea account for 185,000 cases in the United States every year. Some forms of SEs are potential bioterrorism agents since they are potent, heat-resistant gastrointestinal toxins, Medina said.

Medina said commercial test kits for SE detection are costly and high sensitivity is only achieved through elaborate sample preparation. The food industry and government agencies need economic methods to detect toxins at nano- or subnanomolar levels.

“Preparing food in advance at room temperature is dangerous. If one SE bacterium is present, it will start doubling and it doubles every 20 minutes,” Medina said. “Food safety is a result of proper preparation; do not let it stay for more than six hours.”

Medina presented the paper last June 6 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Center. Jianne dL. Yamzon and Laurence John R. Morales

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