Detection of Warfare Agents in Liquid Foods Using the Brine Shrimp Lethality Assay



Abstract:  The brine shrimp lethality assay (BSLA) was used for rapid and non-specific detection of biological and chemical warfare agents at concentrations considerably below that which will cause harm to humans. Warfare agents detected include T-2 toxin, trimethylsilyl cyanide, and commercially available pesticides such as dichlorvos, diazinon, dursban, malathion, and parathion. The assay was performed by introducing 50 μL of milk or orange juice contaminated with each analyte into vials containing 10 freshly hatched brine shrimp nauplii in seawater. This was incubated at 28 °C for 24 h, after which mortality was determined. Mortality was converted to probits and the LC50 was determined for each analyte by plotting probits of mortality against analyte concentration (log10). Our findings were the following: (1) the lethal effects of toxins dissolved in milk were observed, with T-2 toxin being the most lethal and malathion being the least, (2) except for parathion, the dosage (based on LC50) of analyte in a cup of milk (200 mL) consumed by a 6-y-old (20 kg) was less than the respective published rat LD50 values, and (3) the BSLA was only suitable for detecting toxins dissolved in orange juice if incubation time was reduced to 6 h. Our results support the application of the BSLA for routine, rapid, and non-specific prescreening of liquid foods for possible sabotage by an employee or an intentional bioterrorist act.

Practical Application:  The findings of this study strongly indicate that the brine shrimp lethality assay can be adapted for nonspecific detection of warfare agents or toxins in food at any point during food production and distribution.