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Rapid Digital Detection of E. coli in Meat Products

Researchers with the Kansas State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab have created a new diagnostic technology that rapidly identifies virulence gene carrying Shiga toxin-producing E. coli pre- & post-harvest to improve the food safety of meat products for both humans and pets.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (“STEC”) is a major foodborne pathogen that causes more than 73,000 human illnesses and 20-60 deaths in the US each year. Only certain serogroups of STEC are of the most importance for public health.  USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (“FSIS”) requires the industry to test non-intact beef products (mainly ground beef and materials used for ground beef production) to confirm they are free of a specific serogroup of  E. coli. Regulations for testing six other serogroups will be in place soon, creating the need for higher efficiency diagnostic tools.

Current testing protocols involve a procedure that normally takes a week to generate results. The main reason for this is because traditional detection methods are not able to associate the virulence genes within the serogroups. Virulence genes can be carried by different bacterial strains in the sample, but only the STEC O-groups that carry certain virulence genes are considered important for food safety.

Digital PCR greatly improves the efficiency over traditional PCR by reducing the time required from one week to only two days. As an added advantage, Digitial PCR can also streamline the sample preparation and detection processes into a high throughput setting.

Using our technology, samples can be collected from bacterial cultures, pre-harvest cattle feces & post-harvest meat products providing our commercialization partner(s) flexibility depending on application.


  • Quicker:  two days versus one week for the traditional method

  • High-throughput format capability

  • Flexibility in the type of sample that can be used

Patent Status

  • PCT application filed in January 2016.

Additional Details


Kansas State University

Intellectual Property Protection

Pending Patent

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