17 February 2016
Developed by Flinders University the device called a microfluidic chip, provides a much faster test for the presence of histamine, a potentially toxic compound.
Histamine is an organic nitrogenous compound involved in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut. Histamine is involved in inflammatory response. A known allergen, histamine concentrations can increase when food spoils, leading to potentially fatal food poisoning. The new technology avoids the need to use chemical additives and will allow for the much more rapid measurement of histamine levels using a small electronic portable device. Current testing procedures require elaborate sample taking, mixing chemicals and results aren’t known immediately
Associate Professor Claire Lenehan of Flinders University said the purpose-built microfluidic chip uses electrodes to detect the presence of histamine and to measure levels of the compound. “We extract different compounds from the fish in liquid form, and these compounds will pass through the device at different rates,” said Associate Professor Lenehan.
“Our method is a much simpler way because all you do is extract the sample and pipette it into the device without having to chemically treat it first.”
Associate Professor Lenehan, who built the chip with Flinders PhD candidate Leigh Thredgold, said the method is a much more efficient and cost-effective way to test for potentially toxic histamine levels in fish.
“At the moment the extraction of compounds takes longer than the actual analysis because you have to pulverise the fish, add a chemical to turn it into a different chemical and then test it,” she said.
“It’s an indirect testing method because you’re not actually detecting histamine at all; you’re detecting a product of histamine.
In addition to preventing food poisoning, Associate Professor Lenehan said the device could be used by consumers who are allergic to histamine.
“For the seafood industry, our method is a simple, cost-effective and rapid way to monitor food quality and reduce the incidence of food poisoning.