Cell phone-based detection of recombinant bovine somatotropin abuse

Immediate, on-site confirmation of the presence of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) antibodies in milk or serum.

Recombinant bovine somatotropin

Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST) can be used to increase milk production in dairy cows. However,  the use of this hormone is forbidden in the European Union. To be able to detect possible abuse of rbST, antibodies that are produced by the cow upon injection of the hormone can be measured in serum and milk of the cow.

Cellphone-based detection platform

As a step towards direct on-site analysis at farms, Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) - in cooperation with the University of California in Los Angeles - developed a cellphone-based detection platform for rbST abuse. WFSR's test translates the presence of these antibodies into a light signal that can be detected by the camera of the cellphone. A simple attachment that is equipped with all necessary optical components is clipped onto the cellphone and a photo of the sample is taken. A custom-developed App automatically analyses the photo and gives us information whether the analyzed sample is suspicious for rbST abuse.

rbST abuse

This innovative cellphone-based rbST abuse detection tool can help to find out whether or not rbST is being used in dairy cows in the European Union. Furthermore, it has the potential to be adapted for detection of other illegal substances in our food.