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March 21, 2018

Scientists develop Sh200 test kit to detect aflatoxin in maize within 15 minutes

A maize farm at a trial farm in Siaya County /ANGWENYI GICHANA
A maize farm at a trial farm in Siaya County /ANGWENYI GICHANA

Scientists have developed a new technology that detects aflatoxins on location.

The rapid test kit will cost less that Sh200 and comes with a mobile extraction kit that will be ready in two months.

Dr Anitha Seetha from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said this will be the first portable, cost-effective way for farmers to detect aflatoxins instantly.

Seetha said the new test is simple to perform and can detect contamination in less than 15 minutes, unlike the competitive Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (cELISA) test, which has to be done in a laboratory by trained technicians, and other analytical tests and can take up to two days.

The compact portable device is based on the strip test like that used to detect glucose in human blood. If aflatoxin is present in the sample, then one pink line appears on the strip, whereas if the sample doesn’t have any aflatoxin, two pink lines will appear,” she said during the launch of the test kit in Nairobi.

In 2004, 124 people died in Kenya due to aflatoxin contamination and in 2014, the government disposed off 155,000 bags of maize that was highly exposed to aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin contamination in food grain and feed in Kenya has become a major concern as it has a negative impact on health, trade, and food security. Aflatoxin causes liver cancer, suppresses immunity and stunts the growth of children. Nearly 200 people, including school children, have died in Kenya due to acute aflatoxin poisoning in the recent past,” Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation director general Dr Eliud Kireger said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 25 per cent of all crops in the world are affected by aflatoxin.

The World Health Organisation recently estimated that in 2010, around 20,000 people died globally from aflatoxin poisoning and an equal number fell ill from the same.

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