New dockside device tests for shellfish toxins in a matter of minutes

Published on
October 1, 2015

A newly-developed portable device is said to be able to quickly and efficiently identify marine toxins present within mussels, oysters, scallops and clams, and could help to prevent diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP) before the gastrointestinal illness strikes consumers.

The device is able to screen shellfish for the presence of accumulated okadaic acid (OA) – a known cause of DSP – and other related marine toxins typically perpetrated by algal blooms. While there are current regulations in place preventing the sale and consumption of tainted shellfish, most suppliers and foodservice members are required to send in samples of their fish to labs for testing, an expensive and timely process. That’s why Waqass Jawaid and colleagues set out to create the new device, which is easy-to-use and is held to the similar standards of an offsite lab, the research team reported in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Device wielders can test shellfish on boats – in less than 20 minutes – as well as in other remote locations. Inspired by the lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) test, which is the method used by pregnancy test strips, the device tells fishers whether the shellfish in question is positive or negative regarding the presence of OA by using an antibody shown to bond with OA toxins.

The research and device development was funded in part by Innovate UK, Scottish Enterprise and Neogen Europe Limited.

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