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J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Aug 22;55(17):6897-902. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

Application of a real time polymerase chain reaction method to detect castor toxin contamination in fluid milk and eggs.

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Western Regional Research Center, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Albany, California 94710, USA.


The castor seed contains ricin, which is one of the most potent biological toxins and is widely considered to be a threat agent for bioterrorism. In this study, a rapid and sensitive PCR method was applied to the detection of castor contamination in milk and liquid egg samples. The targeting gene sequence of the primer set, Ricin-F4/R4, was not found in either the bovine or chicken genome. Primers against a highly conserved sequence from the 18S ribosomal RNA gene were used as a positive control for DNA extraction and PCR reaction efficiency. The quantity and quality of DNA prepared from castor spiked or nonspiked milk and egg samples obtained from three different DNA extraction methods were compared. The cetyl trimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) method yielded the highest quality of DNA and is most suitable for the sensitive detection of castor DNA by real-time PCR in both milk and liquid egg matrixes. However, taking time and cost into consideration, a commercial kit designed for extraction of DNA from stool samples could be used as an alternative method for the routine extraction of DNA from milk for real-time PCR assays. The egg matrix was found to inhibit PCR amplification and interfere with two of the three methods tested for DNA extraction. Egg yolk had a greater negative effect on PCR amplification than the egg white matrix. Our results affirm the necessity of performing individual validations for each food matrix. Both real-time PCR systems used in this study, TaqMan and SYBR Green I dye, were capable of detecting 100 ng of castor acetone powder, corresponding to 5 ng of ricin, in 1 mL of milk or liquid egg, well below the toxic dose for humans. On the basis of these results, the real-time PCR method for detection of intentional castor contamination is applicable to milk and egg matrixes.

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