Evaluation of an In Vitro Bioassay for the Detection of Purified Ricin and Castor Bean in Beverages and Liquid Food Matrices

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The potential use of ricin as a biological weapon in food highlights the necessity for the development of food-specific detection methods. Current methods for the detection of ricin consist of various immunoassays, which detect only one subunit of the ricin toxin and therefore may not be indicative of a biologically active molecule. An in vivo assay, such as a mouse bioassay, can indicate the biological activity of the toxin; however, this method is not feasible for laboratories that do not have animal testing facilities. The purpose of this study was to develop an in vitro assay for the detection of biologically active ricin in beverages and liquid foods. Acidic and high-protein beverages were spiked with either purified ricin or ground castor beans and added to cultured human Jurkat cells. After an overnight incubation, the supernatant was tested for lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity with a colorimetric assay. LDH was released from the cytosol upon cell damage and was positively correlated with cell death. Ricin was detectable in all the matrices tested, with a sensitivity of 10 to 100 pg/ml. Biologically active ricin was detectable in all the matrices incubated with ground castor bean material. This method provides a confirmatory way to detect biologically active ricin that can be utilized by laboratories lacking animal facilities.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Forensic Chemistry Center, 6751 Steger Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45237, USA;, Ext 217;, Tel: +513-679-2700, Fax: -513-6792761, Email: jennifer.brzezinski@fda.hhs.gov 2: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Forensic Chemistry Center, 6751 Steger Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45237, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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    First published in 1937, the Journal of Food Protection®, is a refereed monthly publication. Each issue contains scientific research and authoritative review articles reporting on a variety of topics in food science pertaining to food safety and quality. The Journal is internationally recognized as the leading publication in the field of food microbiology with a readership exceeding 11,000 scientists from 70 countries. The Journal of Food Protection® is indexed in Index Medicus, Current Contents, BIOSIS, PubMed, Medline, and many others.

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