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ARS Home » Nutrition, Food Safety/Quality » Research » Research Project #436850

Research Project: Detection of Bacterial Pathogens using Beam Technology

Location: Nutrition, Food Safety/Quality

Project Number: 0204-41510-001-085-M
Project Type: Memorandum of Understanding

Start Date: Aug 9, 2019
End Date: Aug 5, 2024

Rapid, accurate, and inexpensive identification of microorganisms is essential for food safety. No method is perfect; cost, speed, accuracy and ease of use are among the major challenges. Purdue University and ARS pioneered a portable advanced photonic technology to count and instantly identify bacterial colonies cultured on conventional agar media. The procedure is non-invasive and allows strains of interest to be further cultured for additional study if required. The approach is licensed for commercialisation as “BEAM” with initial focus on the U.S. No comparable technology is available elsewhere. Staff at Lincoln University – Canterbury, with whom ARS has worked with previously, have agreed to undertake an initial investigation of the use of BEAM technology to problems relevant to New Zealand. Initial work conducted at Purdue University together with the same Lincoln University - Canterbury staff members was most promising. They substantiated the potential value of BEAM and indicated the method may be capable of identifying for example, E. coli strains with higher infection potential than others – a first in the history of underpinning BEAM research. Description of BEAM. A sensing device called the Bacteria Rapid Detection using Optical Scattering Technology, or BEAM, has shown great promise in identifying dangerous pathogens such as listeria, staphylococcus, salmonella, vibrio, and E. coli. Since the technology does not require a reagent, while reducing the cost of identification. It works by pulsing a laser on a bacterial colony and transmitting the organism’s unique fingerprint. The technology was developed by Purdue Department of Basic Medical Sciences, and members of the Purdue Center for Food Safety Engineering funded partially through the ARS Food Safety Program. In recognition of our common food safety interests and expertise, we have been offered a BEAM device free of charge to initiate a new, unique collaboration. No other device is yet being made available outside the USA! The combined team will examine a geographically diverse range of strains of microbial species of food safety pathogens of economic importance to the USA, and New Zealand, and potentially worldwide.

ARS, Purdue University, and our partners in the NZ Food Safety and Science Research Centre have identified critical bacterial pathogens (E. coli, Listeria, Vibrio spp for example, requiring improvements in rapid detection diagnostics. The U.S. partners (Purdue University and ARS) will undertake substantive investigations that will complement studies in New Zealand. Data will be generated locally using BEAM technology placed in the U.S. and New Zealand. Comparable results will be shared using a secure connection. Partners will travel to workshops held in the USA and NZ respectively approximately eight and 22 months after project initiation to discuss and review findings and, vitally, share and consolidate data, and refine future research. The database created will be more comprehensive than any one laboratory could establish alone. We will further explore the utility of BEAM in investigations that encompass microbiological aspects never before examined, such as characterisation of emerging pathogens, and microorganisms that impart quality defects that can have economic effects.