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H2020

MycoTest Report Summary

Project ID: 655119
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MycoTest (Development of fast antibody-based screening tests for the detection of harmful mycotoxins in food and feed)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2017-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

MycoTest project aimed to tackle a serious food safety concern related to mycotoxin contamination of food and feed in Europe and beyond. The worldwide contamination of food and feed with mycotoxins is becoming an increasingly serious problem and it has been linked to climate change. Mycotoxins are chemical compounds produced by fungi, specifically by moulds. There are more than 300 different mycotoxins known to humans. Moulds can grow on different agricultural commodities on the field and also during storage. Food and feed made from products infected with moulds are no longer safe to consume because mycotoxins can cause a range of diseases in both humans and animals. In fact, the exposure to mycotoxins can be life-threatening; it is often toxic to a number of organs and may cause cancer. Even a small amount of these compounds, less than a breadcrumb, can be very dangerous. Mycotoxins can be found in food and feed that contain corn, wheat, oats, rice, peanuts, spices, coffee, milk and many others. In the European Union and other countries a lot of food testing is done to make sure you do not buy contaminated food. The food can be tested using special testing methods that allow detection of even smallest amounts of mycotoxins. The methods can be very sophisticated or very simple and they are all very important. Sophisticated methods generally provide more information on different mycotoxins present in food and they also give very accurate results. Simple screening methods, on the other hand, are fast, cost-effective and can be performed by a person with limited experience or even outside the laboratory. MycoTest project hosted by immunodiagnostics company EuroProxima in Arnhem, the Netherlands responded to this need of developing new and improved first “line of defence” tests – quick and simple screening methods that can be used for fast identification of mycotoxins in food. The aim of this project was to develop and commercialise simple enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) for the detection of mycotoxins in food and feed and to construct a first multiplex flow-through rapid (FTR) test for the simultaneous detection of three mycotoxins in one food sample. The overall aim was to make our food safer by providing new and improved screening tools for the detection of mycotoxins in food. The project resulted in four new testing methods that are now offered to the end users such as food and feed processors, inspection agencies and research centers.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In MycoTest project three new enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) test kits were developed for the detection of mycotoxins: T-2/HT-2 toxins ELISA, ochratoxin A ELISA and sterigmatocystin ELISA. These are complete test kits that contain the reagents allowing for the specific detection of target mycotoxins. The test kits are produced by the host company and provided to the customers worldwide. A prototype flow-through rapid (FTR) test was also developed for the simultaneous detection of three mycotoxins. The development of all these tests required a series of experiments starting from the production of suitable reagents, assay optimization and validation. This was done to assure that the final products would meet specific standards imposed by the relevant European Union regulations and guidance documents.
The activities of the MycoTest project resulted in the commercial products that expanded the host company’s portfolio of tests and increased its competitiveness on the European and global market. The MycoTest project resulted in:
• commercialised T-2/HT-2 ELISA and ochratoxin A ELISA test kits
• soon to be commercialised sterigmatocystin ELISA test kit
• a prototype flow-through rapid (FTR) test for the detection of 3 mycotoxins in one sample soon to be further developed and transformed into a commercial product
The work was disseminated by:
• Publishing scientific papers:
Oplatowska-Stachowiak, M., Kleintjens, T., Sajic, N., Haasnoot, W., Campbell, K., Elliott, C.T., Salden, M. T-2 toxin/HT-2 toxin and ochratoxin A ELISAs development and in-house validation in food in accordance with Commission Regulation (EU) no 519/2014 (2017) Toxins, 9 (12), art. no. 388.
Oplatowska-Stachowiak, M., Reiring, C., Sajic, N., Haasnoot, W., Brabet, C., Campbell, K., Elliott, C.T., Salden, M. Development and in-house validation of a rapid and simple to use ELISA for the detection and measurement of the mycotoxin sterigmatocystin (2018) Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 410(12), 3017-3023.
Third publication is currently under review in a scientific journal.
• The results of the project were also presented during four scientific conferences and disseminated to the industrial partners of the host company during a number of presentations and webinars.
• The researcher was an invited panelist during Marie Sklodowska-Curie 2016 Forum Where Business and Research Talent Meets on 29 June 2016 in Brussels organised by the European Commission. She also presented her project to a general audience during European Researchers' Night on 28 September 2016 in Brussels.
• The communication activities also included social media (Twitter @Michalina_OS) and blog (http://europroxima.com/blog/).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

MycoTest project resulted in new cost-effective testing methods – complete ELISA test kits - for the detection of harmful mycotoxins in food. These methods are simple, rapid and can be used by testing laboratories that do not have access to sophisticated equipment. The ELISA kits developed in MycoTest project are provided to food and feed processors, inspection agencies and research centers. The testing assures that the food sold in Europe and beyond is free from harmful mycotoxins.
The project generated the first commercial ELISA test for the detection of the mycotoxin sterigmatocystin. Sterigmatocysin is a mycotoxin similar to aflatoxins, which are the most harmful mycotoxins found in nature. However, little is known about sterigmatocystin occurrence in food as there are only limited number of methods available for its detection. The unique sterigmatocystin ELISA test developed in MycoTest project will be offered to customers worldwide. It could be used to generate more data about the presence of sterigmatocystin in food and feed in order to determine the health risks related to it.
Most of the fast methods for the detection of mycotoxins focus on detecting only one mycotoxin in a food sample. In many foods there can be more than one mycotoxin present at the same time. Therefore, it might be necessary to test the food sample using several single mycotoxin methods. The application of a multiplex test, in which several mycotoxins can be detected simultaneously, would reduce the cost and time of the analysis. MycoTest project provided innovative tool to meet this demand. A prototype of a first commercial multiplex flow-through (FTR) test for the simultaneous detection of three mycotoxins was developed and evaluated. This test does not require any equipment, therefore it can be used in non-laboratory setting, such as in the factory or on the farm. Once transformed into a commercial product the test will be the first of its kind on the market. This new test will make testing for mycotoxins easier and cheaper to assure that no mycotoxins contaminated food ends up on our plates.

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