We are creating a novel breast milk sensor to detect for pathogenic E. coli in donated human breast milk. 

Read more below to find out more about how our technology works. 

The Problem: Insufficient Pasteurization of Breast Milk Leads to E. coli Growth

In the developing world, many women are unable to breastfeed their children due to disease, malnourishment or lack of resources. In an attempt to address the medical issues this causes, human breast milk banks have been established in some communities where healthy mothers are encouraged to donate their breast milk to infants who would not otherwise have access to milk.

Since many of these banks are located in resource-limited areas, they lack proper refrigeration and pasteurization equipment. When breast milk is not refrigerated, pasteurized, or stored properly Escherichia coli (E. coli) proliferates, making the milk unsafe for infants to consume.

Currently there are no standard procedures for pasteurization and breast milk storage nor is there any way to measure the efficacy of pasteurization. Thus, a point-of- contact affordable device that can detect the presence and concentration of E. coli is imperative to begin standardizing safe human breast milk banking in the developing and developed world.

Proposed Solution: Breast Milk Sensor for Detection of Pathogenic E. coli

The objective of our project is to design a frugal paper-based microfluidic sensor to test for the presence of pathogenic E. coli in donated human breast milk. The goal is to ensure distributed breast milk post-pasteurization is safe for vulnerable infants to consume.

Solution Design: User Friendly, Simple, Cost Effective Paper Based Sensor

The sensor will be comprised of a small strip of filter paper on top of which lies several layers of biological reagents. Pathogenic E. coli will react with enzyme substrates that have been suspended in stable silica gels on the paper.

The proposed method of sensing on a paper strip consists of four steps:

1. Healthcare worker will deposit or dip small sample of pasteurized breast milk on paper strip.

2. E. coli enzymes will hydrolyze substrate deposited on the sensor causing a color change on the paper.

3. Colorimetric results are read by the user. Color will indicate whether E. coli is present in sample.

To find out more about multiplexed sensing technologies check out some useful papers and Links below: