Bacteria in a petri dish.

MN Impact: Researchers Develop New Rapid Diagnostic Equipment to Uncover Harmful Bacteria in Food

August 27, 2019


Research will increase number of viable technologies to improve food safety.


According to the CDC, each year roughly 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. A 2010 report of the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that foodborne diseases cost the U.S. about $152 billion per year in medical bills and lost workdays. 

What has been done

Traditional diagnostic methods often require complex equipment and lab work that can take days. With the food industry in mind, Abdennour Abbas and his team set out to decrease not only time but also the cost to detect harmful bacteria.

To screen for microorganisms, green gold in the form of triangular nanoplates was combined with a reducing agent and luminol. This caused a strong, stable chemiluminescent reaction that lasted up to 10 minutes. When researchers introduced MRSA and other microorganisms into the combination, they consumed the gold nanoplates, causing the chemiluminescent intensity to decrease proportionally to the microbial concentration. This indicated a presence of microorganisms.


The new method can screen and identify harmful or antibiotic-resistant bacteria within an hour using a portable luminometer and chemiluminescence, or the emission of light during a chemical reaction. More research is needed before the method can be used in real-world applications, but researchers are eager to make this process faster and easier for applications in both the food and healthcare industries.