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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Biothreat toxin detection

Existing food surveillance systems are designed to detect occurrences of infections and intoxications resulting from natural contamination by microbial pathogens and the toxins produced by these organisms. This project addresses the need for validated methods to detect toxins in foods, in response to increasing concern that the intentional adulteration of food with chemical or biological agents, such as bacterial and plant toxins, could become a major instrument of bioterrorism. The research focuses on the detection of both crude and purified toxins and the determination of dose-response relationships. Techniques for efficient food sample preparation and new detection technologies for both laboratory and field use are being developed. Click here for more details on our Toxin work. (This research was formerly administered under USDA ARS CRIS 5325-42000-043-00D. Beginning in 2011 our new CRIS project is 5325-42000-048-000D.)


Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy diseases (TSEs) include Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, aka “mad cow disease”) and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) of deer and elk, as well as the much more common and less dangerous disease of scrapie in sheep. TSEs are generally transmitted orally, through ingestion of infected/contaminated feed. Upon eating BSE-infected beef, humans may contract a TSE called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). During the UK/EU epidemic in the 1980s hundreds of millions of people were exposed to BSE, although only about 200 total cases of vCJD were recorded. We are working to create new tests for TSEs with improved sensitivity, for diagnosis of disease in animals before either symptoms or transmission can occur. We are also working on tests for detection of infectivity in meat, feed, and environmental samples. Click here for details on our TSE research program. (This research is administered under USDA ARS CRIS 5325-32000-008-00D.)


Last Modified: 3/10/2011
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