Xiaojun Chen, Muhammad Nadjad Abdul Rahim, Guo Lin Xu, Jun Hui Soh, James Tseng Ming Hsieh, Rensheng Deng, Jia Wei Lim, Min Hu and Jackie Y. Ying
Food-borne diseases have become a major global public health concern. Caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals or toxins, they can be transmitted rapidly along the food chain and across borders to cause pandemics. Every year, almost 1 in 10 people around the world fall ill from food-borne diseases, and 420,000 of them die from it. Half of all food-borne illnesses are diarrhoeal diseases that are caused by eating contaminated food (WHO, 2015). Bacteria like listeria, E. coli and Salmonella, and viruses like norovirus are among the most common causes of these diseases. Another area of public health concern is food fraud. Food scandals like the tainted milk powders found in China are a safety concern for consumers and also damaged their trust in the food industry. Therefore, consumers, companies and regulatory agencies are finding it increasingly important to be able to detect viruses in food and discern food ingredients accurately. Conventional methods of detecting pathogens in food rely on lab-intensive and time-consuming culture methods, which take days to deliver the final result. Our lab is addressing this important healthcare challenge by developing reliable and rapid food testing platforms.
Using our paper-based technology, we are developing test kits that can detect major bacterial and viral pathogens in food samples sensitively and rapidly. Our paper-based assays can also be employed for meat speciation.
In addition, we are developing an automated sample preparation system that would enable rapid sample processing, as well as bacteria enrichment and isolation. This will be integrated with our unique lab-on-a-chip system, called the OmegaPlex Chip, which is designed to provide multiplexing or simultaneous detection of bacteria and/or viruses from a single sample. The microfluidic system will enable us to achieve rapid detection of a whole range of common food-borne pathogens, as well as drug-resistant bacteria, including Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE).