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Canadian researchers use bio-inks to produce pathogen detectors on desk-top inkjet printers

Staff at Ontario’s McMaster University have demonstrated the potential for low-cost bacteria detectors produced using desktop digital printers.

Paper sensors made using the new technique could be calibrated to detect e-coli, clostridium-difficile (c-diff) and a range of other common bacteria that cause food poisoning. As the sensors can be produced on paper, it could be evolved to make simple visual safety indicators for individual food packages. The research was published in the journal Chemistry on 27 March.

John Brennan, director of McMaster’s Biointerfaces Institute says: ‘Imagine being able to clearly identify contaminated meat, vegetables or fruit. For patients suspected of having infectious diseases like c-diff, this technology allows doctors to quickly and simply diagnose their illnesses, saving time and expediting what could be life-saving treatments.

‘This method can be extended to virtually any compound, be it a small molecule, bacterial cell or virus. The simplicity of use makes the system easy and cheap to implement in the field, or in the doctor’s office.’

Central to the McMaster process is the production of bio-inks from DNA that are attuned to detect the bacteria. The large size of the DNA molecules used guarantees their adhesion to the paper.

Brennan adds: ‘We could conceivably adapt this for numerous applications, which would include rapid detection of cancer or monitoring toxins in the water supply.’

This article comes from Food Contact World, which provides exclusive news and analysis on developments in digital print trends, markets, and technologies.