Jan. 1, 2023 - Dec. 31, 2023Amount Awarded
Jenny Maloney, Ph.D.
USDA - ARS
Monica Santin, Ph.D., Laurene Tetard, Ph.D.Summary
Cyclospora cayetanensis (Cc) is a parasite which causes diarrheal illness in humans worldwide and is spread through contaminated food and water. Current procedures for Cc detection are expensive and time consuming. A detection system for Cc which is simple, fast, low-cost, and can be used in the field is needed. This proposal will test and develop a novel detection system for Cc by pairing infrared microscopy with cantilever-based microsensor technology. The sensing system will initially be developed using commercially available parasites and final testing stages will use oocysts of Cc. To determine if the sensing system has the sensitivity needed for testing produce and water samples, it will be compared to methods currently used for Cc detection. This project represents the first step toward producing a new tool which can be used by growers, processors, researchers, and testing laboratories to detect and quantify Cc quickly and cost-effectively. Such a tool could significantly improve our understanding of Cc risk and risk factor contributors and be used by growers, producers, and regulators to improve the safety of the fresh produce available to consumers.
Cyclospora cayetanensis (Cc) is a prevalent worldwide intestinal protozoan parasite of humans which is spread through contaminated food and water. Testing of food and water samples to understand the risk factors for Cc contamination is needed to limit transmission, develop control strategies, and improve food safety. Currently, microscopy and molecular techniques are used to detect Cc but are time intensive and require extensive sample preparation and personnel expertise. A method for Cc detection which is simple, fast, and low-cost with the potential for scalable implementation in the field would greatly enhance food safety. To build toward this goal, we will test and develop a sensing system which pairs infrared microscopy with cantilever-based microsensor technology to detect Cc. The initial design phase will employ commercially available protozoan parasites before testing the system on Cc oocysts from human samples. Comparisons between the sensitivity and specificity of the sensing system, microscopy, and PCR will be made to provide quantifiable measures of success of the platform. This project will provide the foundational data needed to further develop the sensing platform into a tool which can be used by growers, processors, Cc researchers, and testing laboratories to detect and quantify Cc quickly and cost-effectively. Such a tool could lead to significant improvements in understanding Cc risk and risk factor contributors, which can be used by growers, producers, and regulators to mitigate transmission risk and improve the safety of the fresh produce available to consumers.