Detecting ricin in liquid foods

A team of scientist from the US and India have developed a simple and sensitive way to detect ricin in liquid foods, such as orange juice and milk.

Graphical abstract: Aptamer-based surface-enhanced Raman scattering detection of ricin in liquid foodsRicin is a protein toxin naturally present in the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis); it is classified as a ‘select’ bioterror agent and was involved in a recent bioterrorism attack plot targeting US hotels and restaurants at multiple locations, as reported by the Department of Homeland Security officials in December 2010.

 Theodore Labuza, at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues developed a two-step assay, in which the ricin was first captured out of food matrices by aptamer-conjugated silver dendrites and then the Raman spectrum was directly read on the silver dendrites. The measurement is based on the Raman ‘‘finger-print’’ of the target itself. Combined with the specific capture agent, Labuza says false positive results are extremely unlikely.

The assay shows great promise as a rapid (<40min), sensitive, and simple ‘‘Yes/No’’ method to detect bio-weapons, say the researchers.

Find out more for free by downloading Labuza’s Chemical Science Edge article.

Also of interest
ChemComm Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy web themed issue

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