Research funded by the Center for Produce Safety is looking for a cost-effective method to detect Cyclospora in irrigation water, including a paper-based in-field water test.

The project seeks to use short strands of synthesized DNA, or aptamers, to bind to the target of interest — in this case, Cyclospora’s transmission stage. 

Cyclospora cayetanensis is a protozoan parasite, that is nearly impossible to culture in the laboratory and requires complicated microscopy for detection in samples.

Lia Stanciu, Ph.D., with Purdue University, lead researcher on the project said,  “We were able to identify certain proteins on the cell membrane of Cyclospora that are unique only to Cyclospora and to which we can bind some DNA sequences.”

“We can synthesize those DNA-specific molecules. The next step would be to integrate those DNA molecules into something similar to a rapid COVID test or pregnancy test.”

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Paper-based in-field water test

The researchers plan to use the aptamers to design simple low-cost paper-based tests for rapid in-field detection of Cyclospora. Once the treated paper has been used to test the water, workers place it in a small portable image processing box. The paper changes color in response to the presence or absence of the parasite.

The researchers’ next step is to validate their paper-based testing system on Cyclospora samples obtained from specialized laboratories with the Food and Drug Administration.

Stanciu said this type of easy-to-use, cost-effective test will help the produce industry be more proactive in managing potential Cyclospora risks tied to irrigation water.

More on this project can be found here.

About CPS

The Center for Produce Safety (CPS) is a 501(c)(3), U.S. tax-exempt, charitable organization focused exclusively on providing the produce industry and government with open access to the actionable information needed to continually enhance the safety of fresh produce.

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