High-tech imaging can now be used to distinguish the foodborne pathogen Campylobacter from other microorganisms. A research team led by ARS electronics engineer Seung-Chul Yoon at ARS's Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit in Athens, Ga., developed the imaging technique called hyperspectral imaging, to detect Campylobacter colonies on solid media in 24 hours. Normally, isolation and detection for identification of Campylobacter involve time-consuming or complicated laboratory tests that may take several days to a week.
According to the study, microorganisms grown on solid media carry unique spectral fingerprints in the specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Hyperspectral imaging combines digital imaging with spectroscopy to provide hundreds of individual wavelength measurements for each image pixel. The imager identifies these fingerprints by measuring light waves that bounce off or through these objects.
This "sensing" technology, is nearly 100% accurate with pure cultures of the microorganisms and can be used for early detection of presumptive Campylobacter colonies in mixed cultures. The researchers are working toward developing a presumptive screening technique to detect Salmonella and Campylobacter in food samples.