The primary objectives of this research are to determine the best mechanisms for preparing milk and milk products for rapid analysis and measurement of pathogen content by mass spectrometry approaches. The focus will be on rapid detection of Bacillus spores or other microbial pathogens that might be purposefully added to milk.
The closely related but nonpathogenic Bacillus sterne spores strain ( a veterinary vaccine) and B. Cereus T will be used as simulants at the University of Maryland & USDA.
There is increasing concern over the potential for bioterrorism attacks on the food and water supply system. The production and transport system for raw milk could potentially provide an avenue for addition of large quantities of pathogens or toxins to a single bulk milk tank or tanker that could potentially be distributed to thousands of people. It is important that detection technologies be developed and made available for rapid detection of pathogens so that purposefully contaminated products could be readily identified. It is further economically important to assure that non-contaminated products are not uselessly disposed of. In this collaboration the University of Maryland (UM), and the USDA's Animal Waste Pathogen Laboratory will use mass spectrometry (MS) approaches to rapidly identify the Bacillus spores and other microbiological threat agents by adding them to raw milk and raw milk products (such as soft cheeses) then developing the optimal concentration or extraction techniques (antibody captures or filtration) to provide template for MS. The pathogens will then be identified using MS signatures specific for molecular components of the cell. Since research is also ongoing to evaluate PCR and immunological based approaches at AWPL, this research will allow us to compare and ultimately provide the best methods for detecting microbes added to milk.