Staphylococcal food poisoning is one of the most economically important food-borne diseases in the United States, costing approximately $1.5 billion each year in medical expenses and loss of productivity. The amount of staphylococcal enterotoxin required to cause illness in humans depends on the susceptibility of the individuals. As little as 0.5 to 0.75 ng/ml of enterotoxin A in chocolate milk was shown to be able to cause illness in school children. Many methods have been developed for the detection of enterotoxins: immunological and biological assays. Immunological assays are more sensitive and specific and are the basis for detection of the identified enterotoxins. However, biological assays are useful for the detection of uncharacterized enterotoxins. This article reviews methods currently available for enterotoxin detection, including biological assays, immunodiffusion, radioimmuno-assay, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, polymerase chain reaction-based methods, and various commercially available diagnostic kits.

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