The Challenges with detecting Pathogens today

The testing used today is very slow, not always accurate, and costly.

Why does this matter?

There is a huge cost to society. Contaminated botanicals, cannabis and food, besides causing illness, is a serious health issue and economic burden for consumers. The USDA has cited that each year, just the following five bacterial pathogens, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7, and E. coli non-O157:H7 STEC (2000) costs $6.9 billion to society. This is not just an economic cost, but also a human and environmental cost.

Large outbreaks of human infections linked to fresh produce consumed after minimal processing have become more and more frequent. Since 2006, E. Coli has led to the hospitalization of hundreds to thousands of people infected from spinach, romaine lettuce, hazelnuts, and sprouts just to name a few. There is little that consumers can do to protect themselves because these foods are not cooked, washing them has a limited effect on contamination, and more often than not, the contamination itself is undetectable.

Recent research (Berger et al., 2010; Erickson, 2012) has shown that interactions between pathogens and produce may sometimes lead to internalization of the pathogen into edible parts of the plant, where it cannot be simply washed off or eliminated by surface treatments. These pathogens can enter cut or bruised surfaces of leaves and fruit and then multiply in the interior. They can also enter through the pores on the surface, as well as through the roots.

Today’s petri dish culture test, which has been the industry standard for decades, takes up to 5-7 days before it can be analyzed. It is costly and cannot scale as more samples need to be tested. It also can be very unhealthy in terms of testing environment for the technician.

Newer technology such as real-time PCR, which is a genetic level test, requires expensive equipment, is limiting in detecting and analyzing multiple pathogens simultaneously, and needs extensive sample preparation time before the test can be performed. If the sample requires grinding prior to testing, PCR inhibitors are released from the sample, compromising the quality of the test and increasing the likelihood of producing false negative results.

Therefore, a better technology is needed to detect and analyze pathogens quickly, more accurately, and economically and this is where PathogenDx has addressed these challenges.