ARS Scientists Develop A Rapid Botulism Test Strip

The new field-ready test kit strip can provide results in less than 20 minutes.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) molecular biologist Robert M. Hnasko, botulism is both a food safety and a homeland security concern because bioterrorists could, using the natural toxins that cause botulism, make everyday foods and beverages deadly, which is why Hnasko and his colleagues have developed a handy test strip that may give homeland security and food safety officials a powerful tool to use against the toxins.

Hnasko, works for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, say, the strip can provide results in less than 20 minutes, which makes it well suited for 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 is equipped with laboratory-built proteins, known as monoclonal antibodies, which bind exclusively to A- or B-type (serotype) botulinum toxins, the two types of toxins that are responsible for more than 80 percent of all cases of foodborne botulism in the United States. The strip fits snugly into a holder (technically a "lateral flow device") 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.?

Using monoclonal antibodies in a lateral-flow device to detect botulinum toxins isn't new, however, the test that Hnasko and co-researchers developed is likely the first of its kind that can concurrently detect and differentiate the A and B serotypes.

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. To read more, click HERE.