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Development of an infrared-functionalized microbalance sensor for Cyclospora cayetanensis detection and differentiation


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.

Jenny Maloney, Ph.D.; Monica Santin, Ph.D.; Laurene Tetard, Ph.D.
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