Pathogenic bacteria are the origin of 90% of reported food-borne illnesses. Listeria monocytogenes is one of the most important, having zero tolerance in ready-to-eat and dairy foods. This bacterium has become a worldwide concern since it causes listeriosis, an infection which can kill vulnerable people such as the elderly, pregnant women and people suffering from immuno-compromising diseases. Moreover, the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards of the EFSA warned recently that this microorganism was on the rise. The number of human cases of the disease increased by 8.6% in the EU, reaching 1,583 cases in 2006.
Techniques available nowadays for the detection of Listeria present some major limitations very low recovery rates of the microorganism due to the formation of biofilms; extensive treatment times (pre-enrichment step needed in most of the cases); and limited sensitivity of the measurement techniques.
The objective of BIOLISME is to develop a system to monitor the contamination levels in industrial food producing-plants in a more fast, safe and efficient manner than current tools. This objective will be reached through the study of different types of Listeria contamination; the design of new sampling techniques; the optimisation of the samples treatments; and the development of a biosensor-based detection system. <P>
Consequently, BIOLISME will improve: Quality controls by introducing a faster, in situ Listeria detection system that will enable companies assure food safety and/or cleaning effectiveness in less time. Management of food outbreaks by reducing the number of infections and, in case of an alert, the reaction time. Consumers confidence in the agro-food industry. Although BIOLISME will focus initially in the agro-food sector, system s design and operation will be flexible so as to ensure an easy application to the detection of other important pathogens as well as the detection of Listeria in other sectors (e.g. clinical and environmental).