ARS researchers develop new rapid assay for botulinum detection

Robert M. Hnasko, a researcher from the Agricultural Research Service, and his colleagues recently developed a highly-sensitive rapid assay for the detection of the potentially deadly neurotoxin botulinum.

Botulinum toxin, responsible for botulism, is most commonly known for causing illness from food storage mishaps. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently classified the toxin as a food safety and homeland security concern, as it can be harnessed as a biological weapon to turn common foods into deadly weapons. To fight this threat, Hnasko and his team developed a rapid assay to give first responders the capabilities to quickly detect the presence of biotulinum.

Hnasko and his team developed a safety strip that can detect the presence of botulism within 20 minutes. The test is the first of its kind to effectively detect the difference between A and B serotypes.

The strip was developed through the collaborative efforts of Hnasko, ARS biologist Larry Stanker, microbiologist Jeffery A. McGarvey, technician Alice V. Lin and former Albany research associate Kathryn H. Ching. The team plans to continue research to expand the strip's capabilities for medical, food safety and homeland security use.

The results of recent botulinum research can be seen in February's issue of Agricultural Research magazine.