Sunday, April 13, 2008

Viruses to be used in food and health testing?

How often do you really think about what kinds of bacterium are living in the food you’ve just ordered at your local restaurant, or even in the pus secreting wound you got while trying to imitate the guys from jackass? Now scientists have developed a sensor that can detect bacterium in minutes, not hours or days, and are even able to determine bacterium down to specific species, all using viruses known as Bacteriophages.

Bacteriophage literally means ‘eater of bacteria’. These Bacteriophages are currently underway to be used in the identification of bacterium in the health industry as well as the food industry.

Food safety as well as public health is a very important aspect of society. Food Poisoning can have devastating effects on individual’s health as well as a business’s success. Scientists of the University of Toronto, Canada, have built a sensor that uses the Bacteriophages to detect bacteria. Viruses cannot reproduce on their own, like eukaryotic cells or in this case bacteria cells, a virus must ‘hijack’ a cells replication process in order for more of the virus to be made. Bacteriophages attack bacterium by hijacking the cells replication process to make virus replicas. The cell replicates the virus until so many viruses are made that the cell bursts, thus releasing more viruses and ultimately killing the cell.

What the scientists at the University of Toronto have done is created a ‘bacteria sensor’. This sensor uses the bacteriophages in the following way:


This mechanism is used to identify one particular bacterium. The sensors are only a square millimetre in size, meaning that hundreds of different bacterial sensors may be added to a sensor. Each sensor would contain a well full of bacteriophages that are specific to certain species of bacterium.  Conventional methods to identify the bacterium in foods or infections involves either culturing the bacterium or until there are enough to look at under a microscope, both methods of which may take up hours even days, as apposed to the sensors that take only a few minutes. Current developments on the sensor have been able to determine

Bacteriophages attacking bacterium

Some Video Links of Bacteriophages:




Deelan Govind-Vanmali - 41743823

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