Pitt State Researchers Develop Rapid E. Coli Detection - KOAM TV 7

Pitt State Researchers Develop Rapid E. Coli Detection


According to the CDC, food borne illnesses account for 128,000 Americans going to the hospital each year. Research out of Pittsburg State University may be able to lower that number thanks to new technology.

Pitt state faculty and students developed technology to detect viruses and bacteria faster and more accurate than ever before. They've used it to detect the same kind of strains of E. Coli contaminating Costco and Chipotle this year.

"So I think we are not only restricted to the health field. It can be applied to the food industry and whatever interesting platforms we are looking for," Adjunct professor Tuhina Banjeree said. 

The technology can detect contamination down to a single colony-forming unit; the cells making up bacteria. It's a concept at least one member of the team didn't think would be possible. 

"When you're dealing with bacteria, we think in millions to billions. We don't even think in terms of under 1,000," Professor James McAfee said. "So when you're talking about one, it's unbelievable."

When researchers test a sample for a contagion, it's not the machine itself that's the new technology. It's the nano-technology inside the machine allowing for a faster and more accurate result. 

Nanosensors used are made up of iron oxide particles combined with an optical dye and antibodies that latch onto the E. coli cells. The nanosensors clump around the bacteria and this can be detected by MRI, for very small amounts, and fluorescence, for large amounts.

"The objective here is to prevent infection by detecting levels that would cause disease but are below other methods of detection," McAfee said. 

Current methods quickly identifying E. Coli aren't this accurate. Ones that are as accurate as the researcher's device, take upwards of a day to get results. The process developed at Pitt State produces results in less than an hour. Even as little as 15 minutes. 

"I think it's just a starting point. We need to work on other infectious diseases as well," Banjeree said. "So if we have this point of care of diagnostic technology it's more portable, it's more easier, and it's a simpler and faster approach."

Researchers say the technology is drawing interest from at least one private company. With further development, it would be tested by the FDA before coming to market. They also believe it can be modified to detect infectious diseases and viruses. 

The research is published in the American Chemistry Society Journal, Infectious Diseases. You can read the research HERE

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