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ISU researchers develop technique for quick detection of Salmonella

AMES, Iowa -- In the hours following an outbreak of Salmonella, there are many questions. And answers can be hard to find.

Where did the problem start? Can it be contained? Is the sickness likely to spread?

Iowa State University researchers have developed a technique for testing for the presence of Salmonella that may give investigators better, faster answers.

The process, developed by Byron Brehm-Stecher, assistant professor in food science and human nutrition, and his graduate student Bledar Bisha, begins with testing the food, in most cases produce, with a strip of adhesive tape.

The tape is applied to the produce, then carefully removed, taking a sample of whatever is on the skin of the produce. That sample is then put on a slide and soaked in a special warm, soapy mixture that contains a genetic marker that binds with Salmonella and gives off a fluorescent glow when viewed under an ultraviolet light. Use of this genetic marker approach is called Fluorescent In-Situ Hybridization, or FISH.

The approach can tell investigators if the produce is contaminated with Salmonella in about two hours.

"This method is rapid, it's easy, and it's cheap," said Brehm-Stecher.

Current methods of detecting Salmonella take one to seven days.

Brehm-Stecher and Bisha call the process "tape-FISH" and note that it could be an important technique for Salmonella investigators.

"I think this will be good tool in outbreak investigation and routine surveillance especially since all you need is tape, a heat block, a small centrifuge and a fluorescence microscope," said Brehm-Stecher. "It has the potential to be very portable."

Brehm-Stecher's and Bisha's findings will be published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, published by the American Society of Microbiology.

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Contact: Byron Brehm-Stecher
Iowa State University

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ISU researchers develop technique for quick detection of Salmonella
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