At Purdue University, a team of engineers and food scientists has developed a smartphone-powered device, and accompanying underlying technology, for detecting food borne pathogenic bacteria.
The technology relies on using specially designed phages, which are viruses that infect bacteria. These phages are mixed into water that was used to wash a sample of produce. A special solution is then added that makes the phages glow ever so slightly.
This glow is detected by a tiny luminometer, a device for measuring the intensity of light.
Depending on how much light is measured by the luminometer indicates whether the phages were able to penetrate the targeted bacteria or not.
The system comes with its own app that communicates with the attached luminometer and displays the results in an easy to interpret fashion.
Though the system is already capable of detecting the latest E. coli O157:H7 outbreak found on lettuce in the U.S., it is also able to spot Listeria and Salmonella as well.
The phage technology is being commercialized by Phicrobe, a Purdue spin-off company.