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Rapid antibiotic detection for illegal and unlicensed substances in animal feedstuffs

In the European Union, human health concerns have resulted in the antibiotic growth promoters avoparcin, spiramycin, tylosin, virginiamycin and zinc bacitracin being banned from use in animal feed. Existing Community methods of analysis are microbiologically based, non-specific, susceptible to feed component interference and unsuitable for the effective policing of the ban. New screening and confirmatory tests are required. Firstly, this project will develop immunoassay dipstick tests. Using the novel idea of antiidiotype monoclonal antisera as surrogate ligands, carbon labelled monoclonal antisera, raised to each drug, will be employed in a competitive assay format resulting in robust, reliable and highly specific assays that are less susceptible to interference than previous immuno- or microbiological ones. Secondly, mass spectrometric confirmatory techniques will be developed, allowing unequivocal identification/quantification of each antibiotic. Collaborative testing will establish their usefulness as definitive EU methods of analysis and this twin-track approach will facilitate the effective implementation of EU policy.

The project aimed to improve the effectiveness of controls on animal feedstuffs throughout the EU, thereby benefiting both consumers and animals. Overall objectives are:
(1) The development, validation and end user testing of rapid dipstick-type portable prototype immunoassays for the detection of the banned antibiotic feed additives avoparcin, bacitracin zinc, spiramycin, tylosin and virginiamycin in animal feedingstuffs.
(2) The development of chemical confirmatory methods of analysis for each of the compounds which will replace the non-specific agar diffusion microbiological assays specified in EU legislation as Community Methods of Analysis.
(3) Interlaboratory collaborative testing of these chemical methods to establish their applicability as pan-European analytical methods.
(4) The effective dissemination of the results of the project.

The Feedstuff-RADIUS Project can be considered to be a success story.
(1) It produced an operational, commercially interesting and widely applicable rapid test kit for the detection of the presence at or above illegal concentration of 5 antimicrobial growth promoters in ruminant, pig and poultry feed.
(2) The rapid test can be used on commercially-produced feedstuffs, which are often characterised by a low homogeneity of the mixtures. (Note: This implies, however, that for inhomogeneous batches, a large number of samples are needed to quantify the exact content.)
(3) It produced an operational and highly precise method for confirmation / information of the positive results of the rapid test.
(4) The rapid test and confirmatory method are appropriately documented.
(5) The project results are of interest not only to the industry but also to control bodies and laboratories, possibly also to regulators.
(6) The project yielded at least 6 scientific publications in international journals.

Cross-contamination of batches of feed with additives from previous batches produced in the same mill, as well as the level of homogeneity of additive distribution in commercially produced feed batches, were key aspects the RADIUS Project had to take into account. On precisely these elements, the Commission is funding the Cross-Conta project. A contact has been established between the two projects to permit exchange of experience (RADIUS on real, industrially produced feed; Cross-Conta on the level of carry-over cross-contamination and on how to quantify the level of homogeneity of a feed mixture.). It would be useful to monitor whether this contact yields some substantial benefits.


Scientist responsible for the project

Stoney Road, Stormont
BT4 3SD Belfast
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 2890 525651


Project ID QLRT-1999-30900
Organisation The Queen's University of Belfast
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 42
Total cost 1 338 352 €
Total EC contribution   1 076 843 €
Status Completed

The partners

  • Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Netherlands (The) - NL
  • EURO-Diagnostica B.V., Netherlands (The) - NL

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