Victorian govt supports research to speed detection of gastro food-borne illness

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th December 2012

 The Victorian Department of Health has commissioned the Swinburne University of Technology to develop an early detection system to trace sources of a bacteria that contributes to Gastroenteritis, a common food borne illness in Australia.

In Australia, more than 5.4 million cases of gastroenteritis, involving 15,000 hospitalisations and 80 deaths, are reported in Australia each year. The national cost to the health care system is estimated to be $1.2 billion annually.

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by viruses and commonly bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni. Current testing methods for the bacteria are time-consuming as growing samples for genotyping analysis takes three to four days. The delay can make tracing the origin of the contamination difficult.

Using samples from the Swinburne University’s Microbiological Diagnostic Unit, Swinburne personnel are working to identify a selection of toxin genes associated with the campylobacter infection. They are using Swinburne’s MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer to accurately identify strain-specific metabolic fingerprints, and the results are then fed into a database of different cell proteins allowing the comparison of new strains with those previously identified.

“You can get the preparation stage down to one day and then get the results through the MALDI-TOF in half an hour,” microbiology Professor Elena Ivanova of Swinburne University said.

“This greatly reduces the time and effort required to identify the origin of a Campylobacter jejuni contamination” Professor Ivanova said.

The researchers would also like to develop a portable biosensor to aide in tracing the source of Campylobacter jejuni contamination in the next research phase.