Developing a rapid test for organophosphate pesticide contamination

Researchers from the Centre for Biosciences have completed work that could lead to a rapid test for toxic organophosphate pesticides in food and water supplies.

Organophosphate pesticides (OPs) are widely used in farming as they are highly effective insecticides. Unfortunately a majority of OPs are also extremely hazardous to human health and the wider environment. Because of the risks posed by these insecticides there is increasing concern that their use may lead to contamination of the environment or food sources, and an urgent need for  systems to monitor and regulate their presence. Lead by Prof John Hart with support from Dr Adrian Crew, researchers from the Centre for Research in Biosciences have worked with industry colleagues, including Yorkshire Water, RHM, Uniscan Instruments, CCFRA and Gwent Electronic Materials Ltd, to develop a novel cost-effective biosensor system capable of detecting levels of OPs in samples of water and environmental samples and also in food and vegetable extracts.

This is the first time a detection system using disposable arrays of screen-printed amperometric biosensors in a portable automated system has been successfully used to identify and measure multiple OPs in food or environmental samples. The novel system was tested successfully for rapid analysis in the field without involving any sample pretreatment and powered simply by plugging it into the lighter socket of the car. Previously, such samples could only be analysed in a laboratory by specialist personnel resulting in delays and potentially degraded samples.

It’s envisaged that the system could be used as a rapid detection system for the early warning of food or water contamination by OPs thereby allowing an opportunity to control a contamination event before it can escalate in scale. Speaking about the project Dr Adrian Crew said, "This is an excellent example of how novel sensor technology developed by CRIB can be used to meet the present and predicted future demands from commercial and legislative organisations. We now hope to further evaluate and develop the sensor system to produce a commercially exploitable product that could be used by industry and regulatory authorities".

For more information email John.hart@uwe.ac.uk.

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