The latest technology in foodborne pathogen detection involves a combination of bacteriophages and bioilluminating enzymes. Boston-based company Sample6 claims that its Bioillumination Platform is faster and more accurate than other assays used by the food industry to detect contamination before produce reaches store shelves. When co-founder Tim Lu was a graduate student, his research focused on bacteriophages – viruses that target bacteria. Sample6 has since engineered its assay to find and inject Listeria with an enzyme that reprograms the bacteria to shine very brightly. To use the Bioillumination Platform, workers swab the food and then use a machine to detect any light emitted from the sample. Another helpful component of the system is the ability to input results from the tests into a company’s system to better track contamination and correlating factors. The assay is currently undergoing certification, but several Sample6 clients have been using it in trials for the past six months. The company markets the test as “the world’s first enrichment-free pathogen diagnostic system,” meaning that it doesn’t require cell culture and can detect a single cell in just a few hours. Although the test is only currently available for Listeria detection, Lu told MIT News that the platform technology could be used to detect other pathogens or in other industries such as health care.