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Germans get LI help with tainted sprout mystery

Pall's GeneDisc system, which is being used by

Pall's GeneDisc system, which is being used by Germany's national reference laboratory to expedite testing of food samples for the toxic strain of the pathogen E.coli. Photo Credit: Pall Corp.

Pall Corp. has disclosed a few more details on how its equipment, lent to a German government laboratory during the current E. coli crisis, helped detect the toxic bacteria on sprouts.

“Pall scientists in Germany contacted scientists at the BfR (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) to offer help,” a Pall spokeswoman says. A deadly strain of E.coli in Germany has sickened more than 3,200 people and killed 37, and disrupted Europe's food-supply industry. The strain is the E.coli O104:H4, or STEC

Pall offered the German authorities the use of one of its GeneDisc Rapid Microbiology Systems, which it says "provides real-time microbiological data in as little as one hour compared to days with traditional methods.”

The Germans accepted the offer, and the Pall system was used to test cucumbers and tomatoes, ruling them out as a source of the bacteria.

“Pall GeneDisc system was also used to test sprouts and discarded packaging from sprouts and showed that they carried the same strain of E.coli as some of the sickened patients, the spokeswoman said.

A top German scientist at the BfR, Dr. Lothar Beutin, had experience using this specific piece of Pall equipment to identify toxic E. coli, and he welcomed Pall’s offer to provide equipment for German authorities.

Pall may have ended up making a sale, too. “The lab that used the equipment to identify the source of the deadly E.coli has since indicated they would like to purchase the equipment.”

The GeneDisc system is modular and can be expanded to run several tests simultaneously. The base unit can analyze up to 12 samples per hour and costs several thousand dollars, Pall says.

Pall’s GeneDisc system is also being used in France, Belgium, Holland and the U.K. Laboratories are looking for a variety of bacteria, including Legionella, E.coli and Enterococcus spp. in water; and pathogenic strains of E. coli,  salmonella and listeria in food, Pall said.

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