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A Paper-Based Microfluidic DON-Chip for Rapid and Low-Cost Deoxynivalenol Quantification in Foods, Feeds and Feed Ingredients

A rapid, low-cost, portable and reliable method for on-site detection of deoxynivalenol (DON)

Published: 10th June 2022
A Paper-Based Microfluidic DON-Chip for Rapid and Low-Cost Deoxynivalenol Quantification in Foods, Feeds and Feed Ingredients


Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals produced by fungi that infect crops. It is reported that more than 25% of the harvested crops were contaminated with mycotoxin in the past decades More than 200 species of trichothecene, which are divided into four groups, have been found so far. Vomitoxin is one of the trichothecene mycotoxin produced by Fusarium. The main compounds of vomitoxin consist of deoxynivalenol (DON), 3-acetyl deoxynivalenol, and 15-acetyl deoxynivalenol, which are widely present in cereals such as wheat, barley, and corn. Vomitoxin contaminations pose threats to the health of humans and animals, especially to immune functions. The ingestion of foods contaminated with vomitoxins can cause immunosuppression or immune overstimulation, resulting in some acute poisoning symptoms such as anorexia, vomiting,diarrhea, fever, and unresponsiveness. In severe cases, vomitoxin could damage the hematopoietic system and cause death.

Due to the toxic effects of vomitoxins on the health of humans and animals, there are currently 37 countries in the world that have relevant limits for vomitoxins in foods or feeds. The FDA of US stipulates that the safety standard for vomitoxins in foods is 1 ppm. The safety standards for vomitoxins in the feeds are animal species-dependent, which is, lower than 1 ppm for swine and 5 ppm for ruminant and poultry. Vomitoxin is represented in more than 90% of all mycotoxin-contaminated samples, and its presence usually indicates that other mycotoxins are also present. The laboratory detection methods for vomitoxin mainly consist of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS), whose pre-processing steps are cumbersome and analysis time is long. The high cost and low efficiency of these laboratory methods makes them difficult to be widely used in food or feed quality supervision and control. A rapid, low-cost, portable and reliable method for on-site detection of deoxynivalenol (DON), a representative mycotoxin predominantly occurring in grains, would be helpful to control mycotoxin contamination. 

Technology Overview

Researchers at the University of Manitoba have invented a paper-based microfluidic chip capable of measuring deoxynivalenol (DON-Chip) in foods, feeds and feed ingredients (Figure 1). The DON-Chip incorporated a colorimetric competitive immunoassay into the paper microfluidic device and used gold nanoparticles as a signal indicator. Furthermore, a novel ratiometric analysis method was proposed to improve the signal resolvability in low concentrations. Detection of DON in the aqueous extracts from solid foods, feeds or feed ingredients was successfully validated with a detection range from 0.01-20 ppm (using dilution factors from 10-104) (Table 1).


Compared with conventional methods, the novel DON-Chip could greatly reduce the cost and time of mycotoxin detection in the food and feed industry.

Specifically, the useful features of this DON-Chip are fast testing (within 12 min), low-cost (< 2 US dollars of material cost per test), high reproducibility, and integration with a portable imaging system for easy signal readout. Overall, the DON-Chip provides an excellent example of microfluidic paper-based technology for rapid and low-cost detection of mycotoxins in foods and feed products. 


With careful optimizations in device design, reagent concentration and reaction conditions, the DON-Chip can be used for on-site measurement of DON concentration in real-world foods, feeds and feed ingredients within 12 min, with a detection range from 0.01-20 ppm. It is worth noting that the present DON-Chip is the first competitive immunoassay that combines the complementary signals of low and high DON concentration samples for a more complete and realistic measurement. Moreover, the ratiometric value between these two signals provide lower LODs and better resolvability at low concentrations. Overall, the DON-Chip offers a low-cost portable alternative to mycotoxin detection with strong implications for improving animal health and food safety. 


We are seeking a development partner or a license agreement with industry.

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