Fast-screening CE-MS method for Bacteria through Protein Pattern Recognition

Fast-screening CE-MS method for Bacteria through Protein Pattern Recognition

A team from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stationed in the port of San Juan, Puerto Rico tested a fast-screening method to identify bacteria in food samples. The method, already established academia, was validated in their government labs. Once expanded, this process could greatly shorten the time it takes to identify bacteria in food samples.

Fast-screening CE-MS method for Bacteria through Protein Pattern Recognition: Watch the 5 minute project presentation and pitch

Project Summary

The FDA tests samples of food for contamination of bacteria to help ensure the safety of our food system. In 2012, the FDA oversaw 11,136,599 shipments of food coming into ports across the country. Of these, less than 2% were actually able to be examined. (View source)

From the day a shipment of food arrives in a port, the FDA has only 4 days to test whether this food is safe to eat. If they are not able to test the food for microbes within this timeframe, the food is released into the food system anyways. However, the conventional microbiological procedures used are labor-intensive and time-consuming. Further, this team, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, must send samples of the food to Atlanta for analysis.

This team is exploring whether a “fast-screening” methodology for microbe identification that has been used in academia can be used in FDA operations. The methodology uses capillary electrophoresis (CE) coupled with mass spectrometry (MS) to develop protein pattern recognition by an electropherogram for bacterial samples in food without sample preparation. With the fast-screening method of CE-MS protein-pattern recognition, samples could be analyzed in as little as 30 minutes to determine the presence of bacteria. The use of this method could greatly shorten analysis time and result in a safer food system.

For their Ignite project, this team validated with prepared samples the capillary electrophoresis step in this coupled process. Their next steps include validating the process using actual food samples (instead of prepared samples) to measure bacterial recovery before expanding their testing to include mass spectometry.

This proposal builds on a previous effort of the CDC that successfully identified a specific type of tuberculosis. If successful, this idea might also be applied to other pathogenic organisms such as shigella, bacillus, anthrasis, and also viruses in the future.

Team Photo

Team Members

Jose Moreno (Project Lead), Food and Drug Administration
Jose Velez, Food and Drug Administration
Fernando Gonzalez, Food and Drug Administration
Hector Espinet, Food and Drug Administration
Osvaldo Rosario, Food and Drug Administration
Joseph Bloom, Food and Drug Administration

Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Adaberto Cajibas, Supervisory Chemist, Office of Regulatory Affairs, Food and Drug Administration


HHS Ignite

HHS Ignite is the IDEA Lab’s incubator for Department staff with ideas on how to modernize government. Selected teams are introduced to startup methodologies for problem identification and project implementation. In the entrepreneurial spirit, Ignite projects are iterative, their impacts measurable, and their solutions scalable. This is one of 13 projects that participated in the beta year of Ignite which ran from June 2013 to February 2014.

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