April 12/Hamilton, Ontario/UPI -- Canadian researchers say they have developed a method to detect pathogens like E. coli, salmonella and listeria before they can contaminate food and water.

Scientists at McMaster University in Ontario say the bacteria multiply so rapidly that conventional testing methods come too late for tens of thousands of Canadians who suffer the ill effects of the often deadly pathogens.

Biochemist Yingfu Li and his research team have developed a simple test to identify specific pathogens using a system that will "hunt" for bacteria by detecting DNA trails of bacterial "droppings."

The technique tracks these metabolic by-products with molecular beacons that fluoresce -- light up -- when they detect the DNA sequence left behind.

Li's sensor will be able to identify bacteria and does not require the steps and specialized equipment typically used to identify whether harmful bacteria are present, a university release reported.

"Current methods of foodborne bacterial detection take time," Li said. "The five days it takes to detect listeria, for example, can translate into an outbreak that costs lives."


From the April 14, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.