New Nanotechnology Platform
Developed for the Rapid
Detection of Foodborne Viruses
A promising technology will
aid detection of foodborne
At the University of Guelph, our bionano lab, working in collaboration with Korean and Japanese scientists, has developed a nano- technology-based platform for rapidly detecting foodborne viruses that is quicker,
easier, and more accurate than current testing methods.
This new sensing mechanism can detect very faint traces
of foodborne viruses that can help prevent epidemics
and further transmission.
Foodborne viruses can cause major health problems.
Sufferers can end up with gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves the stomach and small intestine and can cause liver damage with
What Are Foodborne Viruses?
Foodborne viruses are not really living organisms, as
they do not have a metabolic apparatus. They are inert,
incapable of reproducing, and must induce living cells
to infect the host. They are shed in particles; one bout
of vomiting from gastroenteritis can shed many particles, which can lead to large outbreaks in a short time.
Viruses are persistent and can even survive some food
production processes used to control bacteria in food.
How Are These Viruses Contracted?
Human infection can occur following consumption
of contaminated food, person-to-person body contact,
or release of aerosols from vomiting. Food may be con-
Types of Foodborne Viruses
taminated by infected food handlers or
by contact with water contaminated by
treated or untreated sewage. Outbreaks
of viral foodborne illness have also been
associated with the consumption of
shellfish harvested from polluted water.
Signs and symptoms of infection in
humans include diarrhea, vomiting, and
abdominal pain. Fever, lack of energy,
and dehydration can occur. Hepatitis
symptoms can include jaundice, muscle
weakness, and bad headaches.
Norovirus: Norovirus is contracted
orally through contaminated water or
food. The infection can last anywhere
from 24 hours to 6 days, and symptoms
include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Noroviruses are often the cause of
epidemic outbreaks. Water from wells,
swimming pools, recreational lakes, or
water stored on cruise liners is usually
the source of these outbreaks. Infection from food is normally associated
with shellfish or salads that have been
washed in contaminated water. If it is
picked up from other foods, it is usually
due to the food handler’s contaminating the food with the virus.
Rotavirus: Rotavirus A is endemic
worldwide, causing approximately 80
percent of rotavirus gastroenteritis in humans, particularly through waterborne
infection. Rotavirus gastroenteritis is a
self-limiting, mild to severe disease that
includes symptoms of vomiting, watery
diarrhea, and low-grade fever. It can be
deadly in children and the elderly, as it
can cause rapid dehydration.
Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a liver
infection characterized by symptoms
similar to influenza’s such as fever, malaise, nausea, joint pain, and abdominal
discomfort, followed several days later
by jaundice. Sufferers normally recover
within 2 months. The illness is usually
more severe the older the person is.
Foods can be contaminated with the
By Suresh Neethirajan, Ph.D., P.E.