Development of in vitro assays for the detection of botulinum toxins in foods

Matthew Wictome, Kirsti A. Newton, Karen Jameson, Paul Dunnigan, Sally Clarke, Joy Gaze, Annie Tauk, Keith A. Foster, Clifford Shone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Currently the only accepted method for the detection of botulinum neurotoxin in contaminated samples is the mouse bioassay. Although highly sensitive this test has a number of drawbacks: it is expensive to perform, lacks specificity and involves the use of animals. With increasing resistance to such animal tests there is a need to replace the bioassay with a reliable in vitro test. Over the past six years it has been demonstrated that all the botulinum neurotoxins act intracellularly as highly specific zinc endoproteases, cleaving proteins involved in the control of secretion of neurotransmitters. In the work described, this enzymatic activity has been utilised in assay formats for the detection in foods of neurotoxin of the serotypes involved in food-borne outbreaks in man. These assays have been shown to have a greater sensitivity, speed and specificity than the mouse bioassay. It is envisaged that such assays will prove realistic alternatives to animal-based tests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-323
Number of pages5
JournalFEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods, UK.

Copyright 2007 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Food safety
  • Toxin detection


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