News

30. August 2022

Applied Biosystems™ GeneChip™ (Affymetrix GeneChip): Established microarray method provides important approaches

DNA

The Applied Biosystems GeneChip system (formerly Affymetrix GeneChip) supports both DNA and RNA analysis and offers crucial added value for numerous applications.

Molecular genetic studies are often carried out with the help of so-called gene or biochips. The modern systems enable the parallel analysis of several hundred thousand individual proofs using the smallest blood or tissue samples. The Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology is a proven method to quickly generate large amounts of data and to obtain valuable starting points for further investigations.
Dr. Anna Henger
Since 2009, Dr. Anna Henger is responsible for gene expression and genotyping at Biolytix. The chemist has been involved in working with the GeneChip system from the start. As an expert in gene expression analysis, she provides answers to basic questions about microarrays in an interview and explains why Applied Biosystems not only offers important added value for medicine and research. Microarrays are also used in genome analysis and diagnostics. Not only human samples can be analyzed with them. They are used in many studies involving animals, plants or pathogens.

What is the rationale behind Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology?

The Applied Biosystems GeneChip system is a commercial microarray platform. There are different forms of microarrays, which – as with Applied Biosystems – are also referred to as gene chips or biochips. Like a computer chip, they contain a lot of information in a small space. Using the microarray method, specific genes can be identified and their activity measured. In molecular biology we speak of gene expression analysis. For example, we can show how cells respond to a specific treatment.

In gene expression analysis, the focus is on gene products as well as “splice” variants. In this context, statements about gene regulation are possible. This gives us an overview of cellular functions. For example, different tissues, tissues of different developmental stages, normal and pathological tissues, or treated and untreated cells can be compared.

What are the key benefits of Applied Biosystems GeneChips?

The Applied Biosystems Arrays can be used on both the RNA and DNA levels for samples from different species – that means for humans, animals, plants or pathogens. Although different kits are required for sample preparation, the procedure is basically very similar. And: all microarrays can be processed with the same apparatus. With the Applied Biosystems Arrays, we can generate large amounts of data that allow statements to be made about the entire genome in order to elucidate complex mechanisms underlying biological processes or diseases.

 

In which areas is the Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology used?

GeneChips have a wide range of applications – from drug research and pharmaceutical studies to clinical research at universities and diagnostics.

As already mentioned, a large area of application is gene expression analysis to determine induced or repressed genes, which provides an overview of cellular functions.

In the diagnosis of genetic diseases, the Applied Biosystems GeneChip can identify even small deviations in the gene sequence when genomes from patients are compared with samples from healthy people. Other areas of application are toxicological analyzes or the validation of drug targets for certain drugs.

GeneChips are also used in agricultural genomics or agrigenomics. Using this technology, relevant genetic markers for economically important species (animals, plants, etc.) can be easily identified and thus cultivation and breeding decisions can be made.

Why are the Applied Biosystems GeneChips so important for personalized medicine?

In the field of gene expression analysis, the data provide insight into the expression level of the entire transcriptome and enable the identification of RNA biomarkers, splice variants, pathways (signal transduction pathways) and gene regulation https://assets.thermofisher.com/TFS-Assets/LSG/brochures/gene-expression-microarrays-assays-brochure.pdf. In toxicogenomics, the GeneChips are used to investigate gene expression patterns and their changes as a result of therapeutic or environmental influences.

In genetic diagnostics, the samples are analyzed for single nucleotide exchanges (SNPs) and copy number variations (CNVs). In genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on large collectives of patients and test persons, DNA variants can be identified in the entire genome that are associated with diseases on the basis of statistical analyses. After further clarifications, this can be the approach for the therapeutic application of individualized medicine. Patients can therefore receive a therapy that is suitable for them more quickly and the healthcare system becomes more efficient.

What can microarrays technology do better than other molecular genetic methods?

With the microarrays, we quickly obtain a large amount of data from the smallest sample material – and thus different approaches or an overview of what is happening in the entire genome and transcriptome. With the help of further procedures, it is then necessary to filter, analyze and verify them. There are specific microarrays for different questions. In addition, the technology has been on the market for more than two decades. So there are numerous databases that researchers can access and exchange ideas with.

As a special laboratory, what added value does Biolytix offer its customers with regard to GeneChip technology?

GeneChip technology is a tried and tested system. The arrays have been steadily improved and updated over the last twenty years. Biolytix as a company has been working with the technology since its inception and has seen its progress. That means: We know the development, the updates and, above all, the possibilities that the Applied Biosystems GeneChip process offers. As a specialized laboratory, we at Biolytix can and have examined smaller samples as well as several hundred samples – such as in larger clinical studies. We generate the data in our laboratory and, after quality control, hand over the raw data to the customer.

Can the customer evaluate the data received himself?

There is now user-friendly software for initial analysis. For example, for gene expression analysis, the Transcriptome Analysis Console (TAC) software provides a fast, easy solution to analyze and visualize global expression patterns of genes and signal transduction pathways, as well as exons and splice variants. But of course the tools are only applicable to a certain extent. They provide a good overview. In order to go deeper, the know-how of a biotechnician or bioinformatician is required, who starts with additional tools and the corresponding experience and goes deeper.

Are there comparable methods that could compete with microarrays in the future?

A possible competing product could be Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS). This is a new type of nucleic acid analysis technology. However, I don’t necessarily want to see NGS and microarrays as competition because the methods are fundamentally different. Statements about the entire genome and for all species are also possible here. In contrast to other sequencing methods, several hundred million fragments can be sequenced in one sample. The NGS technology is used, for example, to identify relevant genes – among other things for the early detection of tumor diseases.

NGS can also shed light on new regions in the genome, additional differentially expressed genes, and signal transduction pathways. But much of the additional data would not be relevant to the statement in many studies. So unlike NGS, with microarrays only the region of the genome that is represented in the individual samples can be analyzed.

Nevertheless, microarrays offer some advantages: In terms of size, microarray data are easier to handle than NGS datasets. The huge amounts of data from next-generation sequencing  can be an advantage, depending on the question. At the same time, they can also pose a challenge even for simple studies due to the amount of data, because the software development is not yet advanced enough to ensure automatic evaluation.

A large number of microarray-based studies have been performed in the last two decades. Standards have been introduced that allow the quality of the data to be assessed. These datasets, supplemented by public databases such as GEO and Array Express or DrugMatrix, have created easily accessible and analyzable databases that serve as an important reference for new analyzes and interpretations of the data.

In contrast, no such reference databases are available for NGS data, which currently limits the interpretation of the data. There is a clear need to build these databases to make better use of microarray data, to facilitate the interpretation of NGS data, and to allow seamless translation and comparison of NGS and microarray data.

Ultimately, both methods have their justification and are used depending on the question. But: The Applied Biosystems GeneChip technology currently simply offers a stable, continuously updated construct from two decades of research and development.

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15. August 2022

Contaminated drinking water: How do coliform bacteria and enterococci get into the water?

Verunreinigtes Trinkwasser: Was sind die häufigsten Keime?

Strict guidelines apply to drinking water. Nevertheless, germ contamination can occur. Coli bacteria and enterococci are detected particularly frequently.

Drinking water in Switzerland is one of the most strictly controlled foods. It consists of 99.9 percent water and is therefore one of the purest foods of all. Drinking water must be inconspicuous in terms of taste, smell and appearance. It must not endanger health with regard to the type and concentration of the microorganisms, parasites and contaminants it contains.

The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (BLV) defines the legal provisions to ensure the high drinking water quality in Switzerland. The maximum values for the germs are specified in the Drinking Water Ordinance. Nevertheless, contaminated drinking water occurs again and again, as for example in August 2022 in Lucerne. E. coli bacteria and enterococci were also detected in several towns in canton Bern in the summer of 2022.

How is drinking water contaminated? What measures are taken to restore drinking water quality and who is responsible for quality control?

What germs are found in drinking water?

First of all: Drinking water is never completely free of germs. Even after proper treatment by the water supplier, it still contains microorganisms. These are either harmless water dwellers, bacteria or viruses that are present in such low concentrations that they pose no health risk. There are strict microbiological requirements and controls to ensure that the germ load is as low as possible and does not pose any health risks. In addition to legionella, which mainly enter the water through contaminated pipes or outdated installations, coliform germs and enterococci are the most common. These intestinal bacteria enter the water environment mainly from human or animal faeces. In most cases they are not hazardous to health but serve as an indicator of faecal drinking water contamination in water analyses.

Legionella in the water pipes

Legionella are among the most well-known germs in water. The moist germs multiply particularly well at temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees and are therefore mainly found in hot water systems. The biofilm in the pipes serves as an ideal breeding ground. Legionella enter the human body as an aerosol when water containing bacteria is inhaled and can trigger what is known as Legionnaires’ disease, a form of pneumonia. Especially in the summer months, house pipes and water pipe systems in holiday homes are often affected. For example, if the holiday home is empty for a long time, boilers or air conditioning systems are potential breeding grounds for legionella. Holiday home owners should therefore regularly turn on the taps and let the hot water run for a while – even in the shower, as legionella die off at temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius.

  1. coli bacteria in drinking water

Escherichia coli bacteria, also known as E. coli, are among the coliform germs (coli bacteria) that are not allowed to occur according to the Drinking Water Ordinance. The limit value is zero. E. coli is a widespread intestinal germ and a natural component of the human and animal intestinal flora. Basically it is not dangerous. If E. coli bacteria are ingested through the drinking water, this can lead to diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems. Often there are no symptoms and the bacteria are excreted again. However, risk groups such as pregnant women or people with weak immune systems should observe the safety precautions when drinking E. coli-contaminated drinking water. In addition, the detection of E. coli is an indicator that other germs can also be found in drinking water.

Enterococci in drinking water

Enterococci are lactic acid bacteria that occur in the human and animal intestines and support the digestive processes there. The bacteria themselves cannot multiply in drinking water, only in the human or animal intestine. As with E. coli, the limit for enterococci in drinking water is zero. As an indicator organism, enterococci contamination in drinking water points to other potentially pathogenic bacteria. A quick water analysis and appropriate measures are therefore mandatory. Unlike coliform germs, enterococci can survive for a few weeks outside the intestine. In the case of contamination with these germs, it is difficult to define the time of contamination. If the bacteria are ingested through drinking water, they can lead to urinary tract infections or inflammation of the fallopian tubes in women. Wound infections and abdominal abscesses are also possible consequences of an enterococci infection.

How do the germs get into the drinking water?

Basically, the water quality in Switzerland meets very high standards. For example, the environmental organization WHO obliges Switzerland to report all drinking water data every three years. In addition, laws and standards regulate the limit values that must be observed in order to ensure water quality in the future.

The cause of germs in drinking water cannot always be traced back. While legionella in drinking water usually thrive on the biofilm in the water pipes themselves, bacteria such as E. coli  and enterococci enter the drinking water systems from outside. If they are found in water analyses, they are considered an indicator of faecal drinking water contamination.

Contamination in drinking water is often detected after very heavy rainfall. With normal rainfall, the layer of earth serves as a reliable filter. If there are large amounts of water at once, this mechanism does no longer work. Storms such as heavy rain can overload the sewage treatment plants or flood the sewage system. As a result, bacteria from the wastewater can get into rivers or bodies of water from which drinking water is obtained.

Other reasons for faecal drinking water contamination are accidents, renewal work on the main water connectors  or new connections in the house. Old sewers or leaking cesspools can also cause wastewater and drinking water to mix and lead to E. coli or enterococci contamination.

Contaminated drinking water – how is the quality restored?

Normally microbial contamination is quickly detected and the contaminated drinking water is not even fed into the network. In some cases, the water is also sterilized and cleaned as a prophylactic safety measure – for example during floods. If contaminated drinking water is suspected, only a professional drinking water analysis can provide information about the contamination with microorganisms. If germs are detected, the corresponding wells are provided with appropriate information boards until normalization. The water is discarded – it is directed into a stream instead of a well.

In the case of drinking water contamination due to leaks, it is important to locate the leak as a source of contamination, flush the pipes thoroughly and seal them. Multiple follow-up samples ensure that no more contamination can be found. In the event of serious incidents, a chlorine-containing network protection is added and, if necessary, a boil-off regulation is issued. The population in the affected areas is informed via the media that the water from the pipes can be contaminated and is only suitable for consumption after boiling. It can take several days before the drinking water has the usual quality again.

Drinking water quality: laws and obligations for water suppliers

The water quality in Switzerland is regulated nationally, the supply runs on a cantonal basis. The legal requirements for drinking water are regulated by a large number of laws and ordinances. The drinking water must meet the legal requirements defined in the Food and Commodities Ordinance (LGV) and in the EDI Ordinance on Drinking Water and Water in Publicly Accessible Baths and Shower Facilities (TBDV). The water suppliers and the owners of public buildings are responsible for the quality of the drinking water and must have this checked regularly, for example by independent special laboratories such as Biolytix.

The cantonal water suppliers are obliged to set up a quality assurance system to guarantee that the ordinances are observed. As part of the overall operational hazard analysis, they must periodically conduct an analysis of the hazards to water resources. The laboratories examine drinking water, well water, spring water and groundwater to guarantee microbiological safety in the water supply.

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30. June 2022

Hidden allergens in food - what manufacturers need to know

versteckte Allergene

The strict rules in the allergen labeling of food ensure transparency. However, they do not offer complete security.

Around three million people in Switzerland have a food intolerance or a food allergy. Children and young people are particularly affected. In order to rule out risks and avoid allergic reactions, allergy sufferers often have no choice but to eliminate certain foods from their diet. To do this, however, they must know exactly what is contained in the products. Although there is a food law labeling requirement for the most common allergens in food, allergy sufferers unfortunately cannot completely rely on the information in the list of ingredients. Especially with processed foods and spice mixtures, it is worth taking a closer look and knowing that allergens can often be hidden behind other terms.

The most common allergens in food

An allergy is an excessive reaction of the immune system to actually harmless, foreign substances. Common allergy triggers are, for example, proteins, pollen, house dust mites or certain foods. If those affected come into contact with the allergens, the body reacts by trying to ward them off. An allergic reaction occurs. Food allergies can manifest themselves as gastrointestinal complaints, respiratory problems or skin rashes. In rare cases, a drop in blood pressure and anaphylactic shock may occur.

In theory, many foods can trigger allergies. In practice, however, a few foods are responsible for more than 90 percent of allergies – for example cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, mustard, celery, wheat, fish, and shellfish. According to the Food Information Ordinance (LIV), these must be clearly advertised as such on the packaging.

Hidden allergens: study the packaging carefully

Hidden allergens in food are allergy-triggering components in compound or processed foods that are not recognizable to the consumer. They also get into foodstuffs where they would not actually be expected in a wide variety of ways. Not only the problem of deliberately wrongly declared food can become a danger. Manufacturing-related existing contaminations with allergenic foods are also considered hidden allergens. Since the companies usually manufacture a large number of products and allergenic and non-allergenic foods are produced on the same plants, small amounts of an allergenic ingredient can unintentionally end up in another food. Possible contamination with various allergens is marked at the end of the list of ingredients with the note “May contain traces of…”.

Food producers are obliged by the prescribed allergen labelling laws to list the most common allergens in the list of ingredients. Collective terms such as “spices” are not allowed. But: Special wording is not specified. A consumer who does not tolerate gluten must also pay attention to terms such as “wheat”. In addition, the 14 allergens in food that must be labeled in the declarations also hide many designations that the layperson cannot clearly assign at first glance, but are also among the most common allergens. For example, the ingredient casein hides one of the main milk allergens, although the list of ingredients does not have to explicitly state that it is a milk protein. Ingredients with the term “Ovo” always indicate that they contain chicken eggs. Food allergy sufferers must inevitably acquire a sound knowledge of allergen labeling and technical terms. Specialized nutritional advice is a useful tool for many people in order to be able to correctly interpret the information on the packaging in a targeted manner in everyday life.

“May contain traces of…” – how reliable is the hint?

The information “May contain traces of…” draws the consumer’s attention to the fact that allergens may have gotten into the food as a result of production – but not necessarily. In contrast to the prescribed allergen labeling, the additional trace information relates exclusively to ingredients that are not included in the recipe. For example, if nuts are used in a production facility, traces of them can also get into foods that are prepared without nuts according to the recipe – for example in milk chocolate.

A long list of possible traces of allergens, which do not necessarily have to be included, is often given as a precautionary measure. This is intended to counteract liability claims – however, this often leads to an unnecessary restriction for consumers with food allergies or intolerances. In contrast to other countries, Switzerland has defined limit values for the so-called traces. In the event of a possible contamination of more than one gram per kilogram of food, the note “May contain traces of…” must be given. The limit for sulfur is 10 mg/kg and for gluten 200 mg/kg. Possible mixtures below this limit can be voluntarily reported with such a note.

In principle, manufacturers must be able to prove that all precautions have been taken to prevent contamination during production.

Reliable allergen management by the manufacturing companies is essential

In order to both meet the legal requirements and to avoid hidden allergens caused by contamination, manufacturers must establish reliable allergen management in their companies – be it through in-house or external laboratories and tests for allergen detection. This is the only way for producers to fulfill their responsibility to consumers.

According to the HACCP concept (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), food producers must prove that their production facilities are allergen-free. After a system cleaning, residue analyzes are necessary. Since it is usually uneconomical to shut down the system for the time of the analysis, there are test systems that can be used directly on site (strip test). ELISA test procedures or PCR tests are also important procedures for allergen analysis. Thanks to many years of experience in food diagnostics, special laboratories such as Biolytix offer tailor-made analysis and a wide variety of methods with very low detection limits for the analysis of allergenic proteins.

 

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31. May 2022

Food Fraud: A global problem not only for olive oil

Food-Fraud Olivenöl

The number of deliberately incorrectly declared foods is increasing worldwide. Stricter measures are required for Switzerland to combat food fraud.

Horsemeat in ready-made lasagne: probably one of the most well-known cases of food fraud in recent years. Although the waves surrounding the meat scandal have long since calmed down, the number of food fraud cases is increasing worldwide. The business with incorrectly declared food is considered to be extremely lucrative. In addition to olive oil, which is considered the most counterfeited food in Europe, a wide variety of products are affected, from sprayed shrimp to incorrectly declared fish to herbs stretched with leaves. With stricter control mechanisms, the EU has been trying to detect counterfeited or altered food at an early stage and to protect consumers over the past two years. – Measures that have so far been lacking in Switzerland and are clearly called for by critics.

But where does food fraud begin and why are some foods particularly affected? What are the EU countries doing to counteract this and how could Swiss retailers and consumers be better protected? An overview.

What is food fraud?

Food fraud has a long history. As early as the Middle Ages, high-quality goods were being replaced by cheaper ones. The innkeeper diluted the red wine with water, the baker mixed sawdust into the bread to lengthen the flour. Back then as well as now, food fraud is hardly or not at all recognizable to consumers from a sensory point of view. It is also difficult for food producers and traders to uncover fraud – for example in the raw materials supplied.

Although food fraud causes around 30 billion francs in damage worldwide every year, there is no official definition of the term in either Switzerland or the EU. Rather, it has become established in general usage in recent years – at least since the horsemeat scandal. Food fraud occurs when food is deliberately placed on the market with ingredients that do not match those stated on the packaging. As a rule, expensive products are mixed with cheaper ones in order to keep the production costs down and the sales price up. The following rule of thumb applies to food fraud: The more expensive or popular a product is, the more worthwhile the food fraud is.

Foodstuffs such as spices, which are sometimes mixed with illegal additives, can – in the worst case – have serious health consequences for consumers. If a product contains an unidentified allergenic ingredient (allergen), this can be life-threatening for allergy sufferers.

Why Are Herbs Like Oregano Affected by Food Fraud?

Olive oil is diluted with inferior oils, shrimp are injected with water and expensive spices such as saffron are enriched with starch, onions or coloured grass: the list of food fraud cases is long. In addition to the expensive groceries described, fraudsters also focus on products that are in high demand, such as oregano. The demand cannot be covered by the share of imported herbs. By adding other dried plants, the quantity is to be increased and the demand satisfied. Around 100,000 tons of herbs and spices are produced annually in the European Union and over 300,000 are imported. The problem: Herbs and spices in particular usually go through a long supply chain through several countries. They are mostly grown in small agricultural developing countries and migrate through numerous intermediate trading posts, making monitoring much more difficult.

What is being done to combat food fraud with herbs and co.?

Within the EU, several measures have been established in recent years to uncover and specifically combat food fraud cases. A new EU regulation has been in force since 2019. Among other things, this stipulates that official controls not only check food safety, but also pay particular attention to the risk of fraudulent practices. Various control programs are now being used to combat food fraud. In 2021, for example, the EU initiated the first EU-wide coordinated control plan for the authenticity of spices and herbs. A total of almost 10,000 analyzes were examined on around 1,900 samples from 21 EU member states as well as Switzerland and Norway. In addition to oregano, saffron, chili and pepper were also analyzed. Olive tree leaves were found in almost 50 percent of the oregano samples examined.

What is the criticism of Switzerland regarding the fight against food fraud?

To combat food fraud in Switzerland, the federal government created the “Coordination Food Fraud” (COFF) platform. This is made up of various federal offices and cantonal food enforcement authorities. Depending on current issues, further control programs are implemented, such as the above test for the authenticity of spices and herbs. In addition, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) operates an early warning system for food safety. With the help of databases and the exchange with various experts, social and ecological changes, technological developments and economic trends are monitored and discussed. The aim: to identify new dangers such as food fraud at an early stage and to take precautions to ensure consumer safety.

According to the Federal Commission for Consumer Affairs (EKK), these measures do not go far enough. The regulations in Switzerland are not strict enough to uncover the majority of food fraud cases – the legal basis is not sufficiently adapted to the increasing threat of food fraud. A unit specializing in food fraud, of the kind that has already been established in several European member states, has so far been lacking in Switzerland. The information on cases of international food fraud is exchanged via a platform of the EU Commission, from which Switzerland is excluded due to the lack of bilateral agreements. It is therefore hardly or only after a delay informed about cases of fraud in neighboring countries, according to the EKK.

The formation of an inter-agency team of experts is recommended and demanded – for example by expanding the COFF – as well as stricter legal foundations in order to take targeted action against food fraud in Switzerland.

How can companies protect themselves within the supply chain?

According to the BLV, the food companies themselves are responsible. Through reliable self-checks, they should ensure that their goods meet the legal requirements and are not hazardous to health. In accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GHP), companies must regularly inspect their food or have it inspected and document the results. Using various molecular biological methods, specialized laboratories such as Biolytix can analyze the individual components of products and thus make a significant contribution to food safety. In any case, companies should prick up their ears when suppliers offer high-quality raw materials at low prices. In addition to random sample analyzes of the products themselves, the entire supply chain must be monitored in order to uncover potential weak points where adulteration can occur. Databases containing known food fraud cases and other relevant information are helpful for this.

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30. April 2022

The Tick bite: Answers to frequently asked questions

Zecken-Test

Why the arachnids are spreading more and more, why their sting is so dangerous and what measures can be taken to protect against tick bites

Whether in forests, in the undergrowth, near rivers or in parks: ticks can be found almost everywhere in nature. In spring and autumn, between March and November, their occurrence is highest – the arachnids love it warm and humid. In recent years, the occurrence of ticks has increased massively due to increasingly warmer temperatures as a result of climate change. The habitat suitable for ticks in Switzerland increased by around 4,000 square meters between 2009 and 2018 alone. The number of tick bites has also increased by around 40 percent in the last decade. One of the main reasons – in addition to the improved living conditions for the insects: people are spending more time outdoors in nature. Especially due to the corona pandemic, forests and meadows have become popular destinations in the past two years.

But what should nature lovers know about ticks? How do possible Lyme disease or TBE infections manifest themselves after tick bites and what measures can children and adults take to protect themselves effectively outdoors?

Do ticks bite or sting?

The most widespread type of tick in Switzerland is the castor bean tick. The arachnids are particularly active in spring and autumn, they are found on grass and shrubs close to the ground as well as on plants up to about 2 meters above the ground. In all stages of development – from the larva to the nymph to the adult tick – it needs blood. When people and animals roam through nature, the insects infest the body in a suitable place and attach themselves there. Colloquially, it is usually referred to as a tick bite.

Strictly speaking, however, the insects sting their victims to get at the blood. Ticks have a proboscis – with the help of their scissor-like mouthparts they simply tear open the skin of the host, then pierce it with their proboscis and attach themselves.

How quickly does a tick bite become noticeable?

Tick bites often go unnoticed. The reason: There is an anesthetic in the saliva of the tick. Other substances prevent the blood from clotting or the puncture site from becoming inflamed. In extreme cases, the tick can remain on the host for up to 15 days. With a hearty meal, ticks can theoretically survive for up to ten years without any other food. In nature, the common wood tick survives an average of three to five years. An adult female tick needs a blood meal to be able to lay her eggs – up to 3,000. After laying the eggs, the female dies; the male tick dies immediately after mating.

Why do ticks transmit diseases?

The tick filters out the substances that are important for it from the blood and digests them. Unneeded fluid is returned to the host via the proboscis. This process is repeated throughout the suction period – various pathogens can be transmitted here. Around a third of all ticks in Switzerland carry viruses and bacteria. Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) are typical tick diseases.

What are the first signs of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease (Borreliosis) is one of the most common tick-borne diseases. It is transmitted by Borrelia (Borrelia burgdorferi). The bacteria reside in the gut of the tick. Depending on the area, five to 50 percent of ticks in Switzerland carry the pathogen. A Lyme disease infection often goes unnoticed at first. About three to 30 days after the tick infestation, the bite reddens, so-called erythema and sometimes flu-like symptoms occur. Even a long time after the tick bite, problems in the nervous system or inflammation of the joints can occur in those affected. A blood test can detect Borrelia and  the disease can be treated with antibiotics.

How dangerous is a TBE infection?

Another typical tick disease is meningitis (TBE). It is transmitted by viruses in the saliva of the bloodsuckers and thus usually directly after the tick bite. The number of cases has quadrupled in the last eight years – last year there were almost 400 cases. With the exception of a few cantons, all of Switzerland is considered a TBE risk area. Similar to Lyme disease, TBE often goes unnoticed at first. In the second phase after the tick bite, symptoms such as severe headaches, fever, paralysis and impaired consciousness can occur. Severe courses can lead to permanent damage and even death. Meningitis cannot be treated with antibiotics, only the symptoms are alleviated with medication. The TBE vaccination offers reliable protection against illness. In Switzerland, this is recommended by the FOPH for all adults and children over the age of six who live in risk areas or spend some time there.

By the way: In Switzerland, a tick bite is considered an accident. It is the only country in Europe where accident insurance is responsible for tick-borne diseases and their consequences.

How can I protect myself from tick bites?

Especially in the main tick season between March and November, long and well-fitting clothing and a hat should be worn when staying in nature. The small insects are clearly visible on white or beige fabrics and can be shaken off before they attach themselves to the skin. Tick repellents such as sprays and creams also protect against tick bites. In the evening, the entire body should be checked for ticks – preferred places are the back of the knees, armpits and groins, and often the head of children. Since ticks can survive for a few days on clothing indoors, depending on the humidity, clothing should be shaken out carefully and placed in the tumble dryer for at least an hour. The hot temperatures usually kill the bloodsuckers reliably.

Important: Pets in particular, such as dogs, like to bring ticks home with them after long walks in the forest. Their fur should always be checked thoroughly and combed out if necessary.


What is the correct reaction after a tick bite? 

If a tick is discovered, it should be removed immediately with tweezers or tick tweezers perpendicular to the skin surface. The region around the puncture site should be marked and carefully observed for some time after the puncture. If there is noticeable reddening of the skin or flu-like symptoms, we recommend contacting your family doctor. The problem: The infections often go unnoticed, and symptoms may only appear weeks, months or even years after a tick bite. If you want to know whether the tick you found carries Borrelia or TBE viruses, you can send it to special laboratories such as Biolytix. It is true that a borreliosis finding in the tick does not automatically mean that the disease will break out in the person who has been bitten. However, such tick tests can make an important contribution to diagnosis and treatment for early detection and sensitization to possible later symptoms of Lyme disease. Since TBE cannot be treated, vaccination against meningitis is the only reliable protection to prevent serious disease progression with sometimes dramatic consequences.

 

 

 

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31. March 2022

Listeria in salad bags: A literally dangerous mixture

Listerien im Salat

Product recalls caused by pathogenic germs in food make it clear how important strict hygiene standards and controls are throughout the supply chain.

Fresh, healthy and made quickly: so-called fresh-cut salads from the bag are extremely popular convenience products. Unfortunately, the supposedly digestible mixtures often contain fewer vitamins, but even more germs. At the beginning of 2021, various large manufacturers in Switzerland recalled their products because the corn in their ready-made salads was contaminated with listeria. The problem is not limited to Switzerland – German studies, for example, also deal with the germ load of convenience food. A study of the Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe already confirmed in 2019 that above all ready-cut salads from the bag are microbiologically contaminated.

But how do pathogenic germs such as listeria get onto the products or into the packaging? How harmful are they to health and what do manufacturers and consumers need to know and observe about Listeria? Below we have compiled answers to some important questions about pathogens in food.

What is Listeria?

The rod-shaped bacteria Listeria monocytogenes are widespread in nature. As niche germs, they survive in environments where other microorganisms cannot survive. They require few nutrients and reproduce even at low temperatures or low oxygen levels. Listeria can be found both in the soil and on plants as well as in the animal and human intestinal tract. They get into food through the harvesting or processing of animal products, such as slaughtering or milking. Dairy products, meat and fish are particularly affected, as is convenience food – for example, sliced salad from a bag.

Why is Listeria so common on bagged salads? (H3)

Since listeria occur everywhere in nature, the salad can come into contact with the bacteria either in the field or later during or after the harvest – among other things due to contaminated water or a lack of hygiene during cooling. A major problem, for example, is irrigation with contaminated water. Farmers’ fields may be watered with treated water from sewage treatment plants during droughts. In addition to listeria, other pathogens such as salmonella or coli bacteria get onto the food in this way.

In the case of the fresh-cut products, the salad leaves are cut up during the processing for bag salads. This destroys the natural protective layer of the plants against bacteria and fungi. The escaping cell juice serves as food for microorganisms such as listeria, and the humid atmosphere in plastic bags also promotes their growth.

How dangerous is Listeria for humans?

Listeria are the cause of the infectious disease listeriosis. This is particularly dangerous for the elderly, infants and pregnant women, as well as for people with a weakened immune system. In people with normal immune systems, infection is usually mild. A listeriosis infection can cause flu-like symptoms or diarrhea. Serious courses of the disease include meningitis, blood poisoning or pneumonia – in the worst case, listeriosis can be fatal for risk groups. A listeriosis infection during pregnancy can lead to damage to the unborn child and even miscarriage.

According to the Federal Office of Public Health, there are around 80 proven cases each year of listeriosis bacteria in Switzerland. While outbreaks are rare, when they do occur they cause large numbers of deaths and hospitalizations. In the 1980s, for example, there was a severe outbreak of listeriosis in Switzerland – the bacteria were then found in a raw milk soft cheese. A total of 33 people died from eating the contaminated cheese. In 2014, 32 people fell ill with listeriosis after eating salad, and between 2018 and 2020 several cases of listeriosis and deaths were reported after Listeria were found in products from a Swiss cheese dairy in Steinerberg.

How can consumers protect themselves from Listeria?

Listeria colonize food very easily and quickly. Whether a food is contaminated cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Salads that look fresh on the outside can also be contaminated. Therefore applies: ready-to-eat salads should only be bought from the fridge in the supermarket and eaten as soon as possible. All in all, preventive hygiene measures are also indispensable in the kitchen at home. Not only the hands, but also fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before they are eaten or processed. To avoid cross-contamination, meat or fish products should always be cut on separate boards and with different knives than fruit and vegetables. Good cooling and the quick consumption of finished products also keep the risk of listeria small. However, the only reliable protection to really kill Listeria is heating. Since this is not possible with products such as ready-made salads from the bag, they must be kept cool and eaten as quickly as possible. Risk groups, however, should completely avoid cut mixed salad made of plastic packaging to be on the safe side.

What can manufacturers do to prevent Listeria in their products?

After the severe cases of listeriosis, strict hygiene measures were enacted, particularly with regard to cheese production, and regular controls were introduced. So far, these standards have not been used in the production of cut salad. The producers themselves are in the driver seat: Defined hygiene standards as well as continuous monitoring and random checks of the production and supply chains are essential for food manufacturers. Specialized laboratories such as Biolytix offer various methods to detect pathogenic germs in food. Common methods are, for example, microbiological analysis using culture medium plates or immunological (ELISA) and molecular biological (real-time PCR) test methods. The producers are obliged to have a functioning self-control concept in order to produce hygienically perfect food or to detect microbiological contamination with Listeria and Co. at an early stage.

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22. February 2022

Cadmium in chocolate: new study identifies key factors

Cadmium in Schokolade

American analysis examines soil factors in cocoa growing countries and shows ways for farmers to minimize cadmium intake

Around ten kilos per capita: that’s how much chocolate the Swiss consume every year. This makes Switzerland the front runner among European countries. In general, it is considered a chocolate nation – after all, some of the largest chocolate producers in the world are based in Switzerland. They are all repeatedly confronted with a well-known problem: the cadmium content in cocoa products or in the cocoa beans, which has already been examined in numerous studies. American researchers have now specifically analyzed the soil factors that influence the path of the heavy metal cadmium into the cocoa bean. The total cadmium content in the cultivated areas and the pH value of the soil were identified as key factors. The goal of the new analysis: to show farmers ways of minimizing cadmium intake during cocoa plant cultivation.

Economic risks from contaminated cocoa beans

EU limits for cadmium in chocolate have been in effect since 2019. They force the manufacturing companies to limit their cocoa imports from the affected countries and to monitor the heavy metal contamination in their cocoa products through regular product controls. The cadmium contamination of their beans poses an economic problem, especially for the approximately eight million small farmers in Central and South America, for whom cocoa is the most important source of income. They earn less income with contaminated cocoa. Instead of being able to sell the cocoa beans to producers of fine chocolate at significantly higher prices, the farmers are only able to sell to wholesale traders. They buys cocoa beans from different growing areas and mix them to keep the cadmium content in the products low.

New analysis considers global acreage

While previous studies dealt with the occurrence of cadmium in the cultivation areas of individual countries such as Bolivia or Honduras, the American researchers from the University of Illinois examined the entire cocoa belt for their analysis. The 2,200 kilometer wide belt stretches around the globe and crosses four continents relevant to cocoa production. The scientists analyzed thousands of data points from numerous published studies on cocoa cultivation systems around the world.

Cocoa beans from Latin America are particularly contaminated with cadmium. The region of origin of the cocoa bean is known for the so-called fine flavor cocoa. These particularly aromatic varieties come for example from Peru or Mexico – countries whose cultivation areas often have a high cadmium content due to geogenic conditions. Heavy metal pollution is due to the natural occurrence of cadmium in the volcanic soils of Central and South America.

Cadmium in chocolate as a health hazard

Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal that enters the environment from both natural sources – through volcanic emissions and through weathered rock – and from industry. In the human body, the heavy metal accumulates primarily in the kidneys or in the bones and can be harmful to health in high doses. Through regular consumption of contaminated cocoa products, consumers can ingest considerable amounts of cadmium over a period of years. The EU maximum values are intended to minimize the intake of cadmium from chocolate products for end consumers. They depend on the type of product. Cocoa powder may contain a maximum of 0.6 milligrams of cadmium per kilo; 0.08 milligrams of cadmium is the limit for a 100 g bar of dark chocolate with more than 50 percent cocoa content.

Important findings for future research

The results of the American researchers show that the total cadmium content and the pH value in the soil have a significant impact on how much cadmium gets into the cocoa beans. At acidic pH values, cadmium is more soluble and therefore more readily available for the plant – it takes up more cadmium from the soil via the roots. As the most viable, soil-based mitigation strategy, the scientists recommend raising the pH of the soil by liming the cultivated areas, thereby lowering the acidity in the soil. In addition to the soil factors, the analysis also makes it clear that the cadmium uptake varies depending on the cocoa variety. So one solution could be to breed cocoa varieties that are less susceptible. However, investing in new seeds may not be viable for most small farmers in the poverty-stricken regions of Central and South America.

Even if the analysis by the American researchers does not offer a final way out of the problem of cadmium contamination in chocolate, it does point out new directions, establishes connections and paves the way for future, targeted research to reduce the cadmium content through practicable reduction measures to reduce in the long term during cultivation. Specialized laboratories such as Biolytix use the latest analysis methods to support chocolate producers in checking raw materials and finished products and reliably complying with the specified cadmium limit values.

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10. January 2022

Lactose-free products: important facts about food labelling

Lactose-free Milk

In order to advertise special products in the trade accordingly, manufacturers must comply with legal limit values

Lactose intolerance is one of the most common food intolerances worldwide. In Switzerland alone, every fifth person is affected. It has now been proven that almost all people become lactose intolerant in the course of their life and that they can no longer tolerate dairy products or tolerate them significantly worse. The reason: In order to process milk sugar (lactose) in the body, the enzyme lactase is required. Its production, however, declines with increasing adulthood. Because lactose is found in many products to improve consistency or as a carrier, the population comes into contact with it significantly more than in previous generations – an explanation for why the number of lactose intolerant people is increasing.

In contrast to cow’s milk allergy, in which the body reacts to the milk protein, the immune system is not involved in lactose intolerance; the body simply cannot process the milk sugar. Lactose intolerant people can therefore replace appropriate foods such as milk with lactose-free products if necessary. Grocery stores now offer a large selection of appropriately declared special products.

But when can dairy products be described as lactose-free? Who is responsible for correct food labeling and do all dairy products automatically contain lactose?

We have put together answers to some important questions about the legal requirements for manufacturers of food labeling.

Food labeling of packaged goods

The European Food Information Regulation regulates what information product packaging must contain. Among other things, it is important for manufacturers to list all ingredients according to their proportion of the total weight in descending order as well as all additives (emulsifiers, flavors).

Particularly strict rules apply to allergen labeling. It currently comprises 14 substances to which people may be allergic or oversensitive. In addition to milk, these include soy, wheat and peanuts. Allergenic ingredients must be clearly highlighted in the list of ingredients – for example in bold or capital letters. If a product contains milk or milk components, these must be explicitly named as such.

The labeling obligation for food also applies to operators of online shops who sell prepackaged food. All mandatory information about ingredients, allergens, etc. must be made available to the consumer before the purchase is made.

Limits for lactose-free products

Unprocessed products such as cow’s milk have the highest lactose content. In cheese, on the other hand, the milk sugar is only present in small quantities. In general, the longer a dairy product has matured, the less lactose it contains, as the lactose is broken down into its components during the maturation process. Milk chocolate, for example, still has a lactose content of around 13 percent, while cheeses such as Parmesan or Gouda usually have less than 0.1 percent lactose.

Food retailers now offers a variety of lactose-free products. In contrast to foods labeled as vegan, which are often based on plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, oats or almonds, lactose-free milk or yoghurt are also made from cow’s milk. The lactose contained is split into the building blocks glucose and galactose during the manufacturing process, which means that the products can be consumed by lactose intolerant people without any problems.

According to the ordinance of the Federal Department of the Interior (FDHA) on special foods, a food is considered to be lactose-free if the ready-to-eat product contains less than 0.1 g of lactose per 100 g or 100 ml. Only then can manufacturers advertise and declare their dairy products as lactose-free. Products such as hard cheese, which generally contain little or no lactose due to the long ripening time, can be described as “naturally lactose-free”.

Trace information on food packaging

Traces of lactose cannot be ruled out in many industrially manufactured products – a company often produces both lactose-free products and foods containing lactose. Mixing (contamination) can therefore occur during transport, storage or during the manufacturing process. According to food legislation, a so-called “may contain” (may contain milk, may contain traces of milk) must appear at the end of the list of ingredients be advised of unintentional mixing if the lactose content could exceed 1 gram per kilogram or liter of ready-to-eat food. Possible mixtures below this limit can be voluntarily shown with such a notice. In principle, manufacturers must be able to prove that all precautions have been taken to prevent contamination during production.

Reliable quality management through regular analyzes

The manufacturers themselves are responsible for ensuring that their products are correctly labeled, that all ingredients are identified and that they are entitled to use the “lactose-free” label. In order to meet the legal requirements, the food labels should be checked by professional service providers. Depending on the manufacturing process, special laboratories such as Biolytix rely on tailor-made analytics: Lactose-free testing of foods is offered for all work steps in the food manufacturing process – from the raw material to the end product and in addition to hygiene tests.

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16. November 2021

Christmas 2021: What you need to know for your planning and logistics

Weihnachten 2021: Öffnungszeiten

Christmas and the end of the year are fast approaching. Would you like to use our services during this time and have samples analyzed in the laboratory? – You’re welcome to! So that you can plan accordingly, we ask you to observe the following information on our sample submission and opening times.

Our laboratory will be open Monday through Friday the week before Christmas and after Christmas.

Note for the delivery of microbiological samples on Friday, 24.12.2021:

Food, drinking water and legionella samples can only be accepted until 12 noon.

Note for drinking water samples with result request before Christmas – Microbiology:

In order to guarantee result reports for drinking water analyses before Christmas, we need drinking water samples by Tuesday, December 22.

Note for GMO and allergen samples in express mode with result request before Christmas:

For express, next-day and superexpress samples, we can only guarantee a result before Christmas if the samples arrive at our laboratory in Witterswil by and including Thursday, December 23, 2021 by 12 noon!

From Monday, January 3, 2022 we will be back with normal opening hours for you!

Thank you for your understanding, we wish you happy holidays!

-Biolytix Team

5. November 2021

Legionella in the dental practice: Self-control through regular water analyzes

Legionellen in der Zahnarztpraxis – Selbstkontrolle durch regelmässige Wasseranalysen

The dentists’ water systems in Swiss dental practices are sometimes heavily contaminated with germs. The hygiene in the dental practice can be actively improved through water tests and hygiene management.

The water quality in dental treatment units: a topic that has been discussed for years because it is inadequate in many Swiss dental practices. Of over 260 samples from 21 dental practices in German-speaking Switzerland, almost 60 percent were heavily contaminated with germs last year. Many samples had values of tens to hundreds of thousands of colony forming units (CFU) per milliliter of water. For comparison: the legal upper limit of 300 CFU/ml applies to drinking water.

Since there are no binding legal standards, the dental practices themselves have to take action and establish reliable hygiene controls – for example through cooperation with independent analysis laboratories such as Biolytix. With “Dentalytix”, the laboratory for molecular biological and microbiological analysis has specialized in testing the quality of the water in dentist chairs and in comprehensive hygiene monitoring for dental practices and dental hygiene businesses.

Legionella in dental practices – dental units provide an ideal breeding ground

As so-called environmental germs, Legionella can be detected in almost all natural humid environments in mostly small quantities. On the other hand, artificial man-made water systems offers them best conditions to multiply extensively. The legionella concentration in the water is strongly dependent on temperature, the bacteria prefer values between 25 and 45 degrees Celsius. The numerous small tubes through which the fresh water runs within the dental equipment of a dental practice, form an ideal breeding ground for the Legionella pneumophila bacterium.

Dental treatment often results in minor injuries or larger wound areas in the oral cavity, through which various germs can get into the human bloodstream. In addition, the water is atomized into fine aerosols during dental treatment by rapidly rotating devices such as the drill. These aerosols are absorbed through the respiratory tract and are a frequent route of infection for the life-threatening Legionnaires’ disease. Lung disease caused by Legionella has increased in Switzerland in recent years.

In 2019, 582 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were recorded; five to ten percent of the diseases were fatal.

Comprehensive practice hygiene and regular water analyzes by independent laboratories

In response to the increasing number of diseases caused by Legionella, the FSVO, which is responsible for drinking water, set two maximum values for Legionella in water from sanitary facilities in 2017 – these are regulated in the food legislation.

However, there are no binding standards based on defined limit values – such as for the bacterial load in water systems in dental practices. Dental practices are also not obliged to test the water quality regularly. The problem of contaminated water in dentists’ chairs has been known for a long time and is not limited to Switzerland. In Germany, for example, Legionella was detected in every fourth dental chair in 2013 by the Hessian Center for Health Protection.

So what can practices do to improve water hygiene and thus protect the health of patients and practice employees? – In addition to the daily rinsing of the dental units for at least three minutes before starting work, the cooperation with independent analysis laboratories such as Biolytix serves to prove correct operation through regular water tests. The company offers comprehensive hygiene monitoring for dental practices and dental hygiene businesses. The professional cleaning of surfaces and devices as well as the water quality on the dentist’s chairs and the hygienic status of the hands of the staff are tested. The total number of germs can be reduced by taking appropriate measures.

At least once a year, the water in dental units should be microbiologically examined using water tests – embedded in a comprehensive hygiene plan for dental practices. As a long-term goal, the practice staff must be given guidelines that have long been used for the sterilization of practice devices, for example. Clear guidelines and checklists are required in order to document the tests of the water and therefore the water hygiene, to reduce the total number of germs in the future and to actively contribute to the prevention of Legionella diseases through reliable hygiene controls.

It is very important to adhere to the hygiene standards, especially during the corona pandemic. That is why we recommend regular hygiene checks! We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Contact us!

20. November 2020

Biolytix: Opening hours over Christmas and New Year 2020

Schneeflocke

Our laboratories are only open on certain days during Christmas and New Year. Please note the adjusted dates for your planning and logistics:

Biolytix will be closed on the following days:

– Christmas: Friday, 25. December 2020
– New Year: Friday, 1. January 2021

Please note the following for sample delivery:

Drinking water samples before Christmas – Microbiology
To guarantee results before Christmas, we need drinking water samples by Monday, 21. December
Food, drinking water and legionella samples can be taken up to and including Thursday, 24. December until 12 noon.

GMO and allergen samples in express mode
For Express, Next-Day and Superexpress samples, we can only guarantee a result before Christmas if the samples arrive at our laboratory in Witterswil by and on Wednesday, 23. December 2020!

From Monday, 4. January 2021 we will be back with normal opening hours!

Thank you for your understanding, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

-Biolytix Team

21. October 2020

CertiQua awards quality label "very good" to the company Biolytix AG

Witterswil, 20. October 2020 – Biolytix AG from Witterswil has received the award “very good” from CertiQua – it is one of the top companies within its industry.

The CertiQua quality label only awards this distinction to companies that regularly receive top marks from their customers. CertiQua is an independent organization and ensures that the performance of the companies is evaluated based on real customer feedback. The survey focuses on the factors of adherence to delivery dates, competence, customer orientation and price-performance ratio.

“An excellent performance” emphasizes Caroline Roosens of CertiQua, “this proves that for Biolytix AG the satisfaction of its customers is the top priority”.
Even after the awarding of the label CertiQua continuously checks if the customers are still satisfied. Private and business customers are thus always informed about the best qualified companies.

Adrian Härri, CEO of Biolytix, is happy about the label: “This award shows us that we fulfill the wishes and needs of our customers and that our work is appreciated”.

The current rating of Biolytix can be viewed here:
Biolytix AG – CertiQua Firmendetails

About CertiQua

 

The independent evaluation portal CertiQua determines the customer and quality orientation of trade and service companies. Customers of these companies receive a unique link for each order, where they can rate the order fulfillment, competence, customer orientation, price-performance, etc. Companies that are continuously rated “very good” by their customers receive the CertiQua quality label. The awarded companies can be easily searched for by zip code on the CertiQua website. www.certiqua.ch

2. September 2020

Microbiological testing of hygiene masks according to ISO standards

Hygienemasken

Witterswil, 2. September 2020 – Hygiene masks are now an everyday product. However, masks of varying quality are found in circulation. This fact was also discovered on 1. September by the Swiss program “Kassensturz”.

If you would like to check whether your masks have been stored properly and whether the regulations according to ISO standards have been fulfilled by the producer, we are the right partner.

For medical protective masks of type II, a test of the germ content according to EN14683 with examination of the microbiological purity according to ISO11737-1 is required for official marketing. The test according to ISO 11737 also determines the presence of mould and fungi.

We can offer the following analyses: Microbiological purity (bioburden) according to ISO11737-1

An identification of morphologically different moulds can then be carried out using mass spectroscopy (MALDI-TOF-MS/MS). A classification of the pathogenic potential for the detected moulds is also possible afterwards.

Further analyses:
– Bacterial filter performance according to EN14683 Appendix B
– Determination of breathability (differential pressure) according to EN14683 Annex C
– Testing against penetration/ splash protection according to ISO22609
– Biocompatibility test for medical devices: Cytotoxicity test according to ISO10993-5

 
 

Quelle:
– Kassensturz – Hygienemasken vom 2. Sept 2020 (in German)- https://srf.ch/play/tv/redirect/detail/359852c4-4410-4984-b88f-741fb6a774a6
Photo by Noah on Unsplash
Contact us with questions.

15. July 2020

Coronavirus Health Monitoring for Employees and Companies an important component of personnel hygiene concept

Coronavirus

Witterswil, 15 July 2020 – Since mid-June 2020 many measures to combat the new coronavirus in Switzerland have been relaxed by the Federal Council, but a residual risk still remains.

The restrictions and additionally implemented hygiene rules required process adjustments in many companies. The individual rules of conduct as well as the absence of numerous customer visits have changed the daily business routine for many companies.

With the notification dated 24. June 2020, the federal government, based on the updated sampling strategy of the FOPH, assumes the costs of molecular biological and serological analyses performed on an outpatient basis and related services for SARS-CoV-2 for persons who meet the suspicion, sampling and notification criteria of the FOPH dated June 24, 2020.

Unfortunately for many companies and enterprises the criteria of the FOPH are not fulfilled, but the daily business must continue nevertheless; Biolytix has put together a special offer for exactly these affected companies.

Companies that want to combine preventive corona measures with a systematic and pragmatic monitoring of their employees can contact us. This ensures not only the safety of the employees, but also the general process safety of the company.

Example of a Possible Monitoring Process

We examine your throat swab samples, which are taken by your company physician, for SARS-CoV-2 using molecular biological methods and thus detect acute infections or potential virus excretion.

In addition, we can also test blood samples taken by your in-house medical team for specific SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM antibodies. These indicate survived infections and thus a possible existing immunity.

We would be pleased to prepare a customer-specific offer for the systematic testing of your employees.

BAG_Coverage Analyses for SARS-CoV-2
Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Please contact us.

1. July 2020

GobiX GmbH and Biolytix AG join forces to deliver turn-key CE-certified COVID-19 test kit production systems

Biolytix_Gobix

Enabling independent onsite production of test kits anywhere and on demand

Baar, Switzerland – 30 June 2020 – GobiX GmbH, a MedTech start-up, and Biolytix AG, an ISO 17025-accredited service laboratory based in Switzerland, announce their partnership to address the global shortage of COVID-19 test kits.  This initiative is empowered by Formlabs, a leading 3D printing company.  The partnership will allow GobiX GmbH to quickly provide COVID-19 nasal testing swabs, virus-deactivating and conserving lysis buffer for fluid collection and knowledge transfer to ramp up independent testing facilities anywhere in the world where they are needed.

The multi-disciplinary team of experts from GobiX GmbH and Biolytix AG quickly came together in Switzerland following a shortage of COVID-19 test kits – particularly the nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs – during the peak of the outbreak in Switzerland in March.  In less than a month, Switzerland had sufficient means and know-how to produce its own test kits to cover the testing of people with COVID-19 symptoms.

The swabs and viral-collection fluid normally used in Switzerland prior to the COVID-19 crisis were produced in other countries, leaving Switzerland vulnerable to supply chain disruption. Because of global shortage, and in order to be independent of international supply chains, the Surgeon General of the Swiss Armed Forces, responsible for coordinating preparations and the deployment of Swiss public health resources in special and exceptional situations, launched a collaborative effort to develop production inside Swiss borders.

Thanks to swift collaboration between the Swiss Armed Forces, GobiX GmbH, its partner Biolytix AG, and volunteer healthcare experts, Switzerland now has a COVID-19 test production chain enabled by Formlabs 3D printing technology within its borders that was put in place in less than a month.

During this time, GobiX GmbH applied its medical and engineering expertise, and tapped into its network to create a scalable, fast system for swab and transportation fluid production. The swab design – developed by GobiX GmbH co-founder Patrice Gobat, a mechanical engineer and 3D printing expert from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) – can be printed at scale on demand, with each office-printer sized printer having a capacity of up to several hundred swabs per day.

Physician and GobiX GmbH co-founder, Michel Bielecki, said that who lead the prototyping and deployment of the solution, said, “Two of the big problems with COVID-19 testing are 1 –  the availability of testing kits because we rely on external production and 2 –  accuracy and comfort since the use of a cotton swab, currently widely-used due to no other options, can be very unpleasant and is highly inaccurate for diagnostic purposes. Our solution doesn’t completely solve the shortage, but it ensures that we have an efficient and comfortable swab and can bypass short-term shortages during times when timing is crucial.”

The swabs, designed by GobiX during the first Swiss COVID-19 outbreak in Ticino, Switzerland, and clinically-tested by a team of ten doctors and medical laboratory analysts for collection efficiency, testing ease, and patient comfort, are CE-certified as a Medical class I device and in full production.  GobiX GmbH produces and packages the swabs for distribution among test locations across the country.

Adrian Härri, CEO, Biolytix AG, said, “Today, the key to fighting COVID-19 is simply identifying those who are infected as early as possible.  This is the motivation behind our collaboration with GobiX and Formlabs – we are teaming to address the critical need for tools and equipment needed to safely collect and transport viral samples.  One of the big challenges is getting the test samples to the analysis facility, without the risks involved of transporting a pathogenic virus.  Our sample collection fluid deactivates the virus upon contact, preserves the viral RNA for up to four days and does not require cooled transportation – greatly facilitating testing in remote locations and the safety of anybody involved.  Additionally, comparative tests have shown that the 3D printed swabs yield a higher amount of RNA, compared to its traditional counterparts, significantly improving the accuracy of the real-time PCR tests. We are extremely proud that our solution will contribute to accurate testing during this global crisis.”

Stefan Holländer, General Manager of Formlabs EMEA, explained, A single Form 3B printer can produce hundreds of swabs a day using our Surgical Guide resin, a certified biocompatible Class 1 material. The Form 3B printer enables fast, localized production of critical tools needed to support healthcare workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are delighted that 3D printed swabs by GobiX GmbH in Switzerland have now become a segue to expand COVID-19 testing to save lives in hard-hit areas, around the world, quickly and economically.”

GobiX GmbH is now spearheading a partnership with Inqaba Biotechnical Industries (Pty) Ltd to distribute swab production systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Oliver PreisigExecutive Director of Inqaba Biotechnical Industries (Pty) Ltd, explained, “All of the African continent is impacted by the shortage of COVID-19 test components, compounded by border closing. We have a unique ability to make widespread testing possible throughout Africa thanks to this strategic partnership with GobiX GmbH for the swab production systems and our own infrastructure with offices in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and Tanzania and staff in Namibia, Uganda, Cameroon, Mali and Zimbabwe. This unique network for a life science company is currently essential to support the COVID-19 testing efforts in sub-Saharan Africa as we have team members in each of these countries. We are poised to implement the swab production system immediately and without delay, get people tested and help control the pandemic.”

Prof. Patricia Schlagenhauf, Co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Travellers’ Health, at the University of Zurich (UZH) and COVID-19 research collaborator with GobiX co-founder M. Bielecki, said “Having access to tests and test kits is so important especially in resource limited, vulnerable countries. Without tests, developing countries will not be able to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19.”

Press Release (EN)

2. June 2020

Food Supplements Purity Testing in NMN and Heavy Metal Screening

Nahrungsergänzu

Swiss law defines dietary supplements as foodstuffs intended to supplement the normal diet. They consist of single or multiple concentrates of vitamins, minerals, or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect and are marketed in dose form.

The law also makes a distinction between dietary supplements (for example low dose vitamin products and enriched foodstuffs) and medicinal products (for example high dose vitamin products and their claims of medicinal effects).

Many food supplements, nutritional additives and other non-regulated dietary supplements go through cycles of popularity. Biolytix observes these cycles through the different customer requests it gets. One particularly common question is to verify the purity content of Nicotinamide Mononucleotide or NMN.

Nicotinamide Mononucleotide (NMN) is often sold through internet marketplaces, with promises to slow down the pace of ageing and claims to promote a longer life. Because of high demand and cost of this compound, it seems that some untrustworthy companies have begun selling fake NMN supplements.

 

Testing Purity of NMN and the absence of Heavy Metals

 

We offer NMN purity analysis and strongly suggest to also test for heavy metals, to make sure that the product contains what it promises.

  • Nicotinamide mononucleotide Analysis (HPLC-MS/MS): 250 CHF /sample
  • Heavy Metal Screening: 350 CHF /sample

We analyze the following elements:

 

AluminiumManganese
AntimonyMolybdenum
ArsenicSodium
BariumNickel
BerylliumPhosphorus
BismuthPlatinum
LeadMercury
BoronRhodium
CadmiumSelenium
CalciumSilver
CaesiumStrontium
ChromiumThallium
IronThorium
GalliumTitanium
GoldUranium
PotassiumVanadium
CobaltTungsten
CopperZinc
LanthanumTin
LithiumZirconium
Magnesium

 

Disclaimer / Sources
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24. April 2020

Biolytix: Opening hours over 1 May - Swiss Labor Day

Our laboratories will be closed on 1. May 2020 – Labor Day. Please note the adjusted dates for your planning and logistics:

Water and food samples – Microbiology
In order to guarantee results Labor Day, we require drinking water and food samples by Monday, 27 April 2020 until 12:00 noon:

Water samples to test for drinking water hygiene:
– Samples received Monday, 27. April 2020 -> Analysis report 30. April 2020
– Samples received from Tuesday, 28. April – 30 April 2020 -> Analysis report 4. May 2020

Sampling Water – Microbiology
Water samples for testing for drinking water hygiene and legionella can be accepted in the week of the 27. April until Thursday 30th April at 15:00.

Allergen and GMO samples
Friday, 1. May 2020: no reception, analysis and processing of EXPRESS and NEXT-DAY samples

From Monday, 4 May 2020 we will be back with normal opening hours!

Thank you for your understanding and stay healthy!

-Biolytix Team

6. April 2020

Opening hours over Easter holidays 2020

Due to the Easter holidays Biolytix AG will be closed on Friday, 10 April 2020 and on Monday, 13 April 2020.

For your planning and logistics we therefore ask you to observe the following information:

Microbiology – water and food samples 
Please note that in week 15 (before Easter) we can only accept drinking water and Legionella samples until Thursday, 9 April 2020 at 16:00 for the corresponding analyses.

Microbiological results will be available for completed orders from Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

Express: Allergen food samples, as well as feed and seed samples
24-hour express: If samples are received by Wednesday, 8 April 2020, the result can be guaranteed on Thursday, 9 April 2020

8 hours super express: If samples are received by Thursday, April 9, 2020 by 11:00 a.m., the result can be guaranteed on Thursday, April 9, 2020 in the evening.

From Tuesday 14 April 2020 we will be back with normal opening hours!

Summary
Biolytix is closed on the following days:
– Friday, 10 April 2020 Good Friday
– Monday, 13 April 2020 Easter Monday

18. March 2020

Coronavirus / Covid-19 Biolytix is open and continues to analyze

Biolytix AG remains open and offers its services as usual. We do not expect any significant delays.

Contact us!

20. November 2019

Biolytix AG can detect Xylella fastidiosa and produces kits on request

Xylella in Olive tree in South italy

Xylella fastidiosa causes major damage to cultivated plants in Europe, especially in Italy, Spain and France
– Real-time PCR analysis kits for Xylella fastidiosa available on request

Witterswil, 20 November 2019 – Xylella fastidiosa, a vector-transmitted bacterial plant pathogen, is currently causing major problems in parts of Europe. Xylella fastidiosa was first detected on olive trees in southern Italy in Europe in 2013. Since then, the pathogenic bacterium has also been reported in France, Spain and Germany.

In Salento in southern Italy, the pathogenic bacterium has led to the so-called “Olive Quick-Down Syndrome” (OQDS), which results in the death of the leaves and branches of the olive tree, so that the trees can no longer produce olive plants.

“Plant pathogens such as Xylella fastidiosa can have serious effects on the economy of entire regions, especially if the disease is transmitted to important crops,” says Dr. Ralf Seyfarth, CSO of Biolytix.

The speed and presentation of symptoms on the plant depends very much on the following factors: host plant species, the level of bacterial inoculum, the subspecies involved and even the specific recombinations within the same or different subspecies as well as climatic conditions. (see Agroscope Fact Sheet (in German): Das Feuerbakterium – Xylella fastidiosa)

Thanks to our team of dedicated scientists, we are able to offer an analytical method for the detection of Xylella fastidiosa. If Xylella is suspected and you want to make sure that it is not Xylella fastidiosa – contact us!

For analytical laboratories and institutes: We also manufacture Xylella fastidiosa real-time PCR analysis kits for all common PCR devices.

Contact us!
Sources:
  • https://www.blw.admin.ch/blw/en/home/nachhaltige-produktion/pflanzenschutz/pflanzengesundheit-eidg-pflanzenschutzdienst/schutz-vor-besonders-gefaehrlichen-schadorganismen/xylella-fastidiosa.html
  • https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Xylella-fastidiosa-the-causal-agent-of-Pierces-and-other-diseases-Credits-Dr_fig1_237746731
  • https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/plant_health_biosecurity/legislation/emergency_measures/xylella-fastidiosa_en
  • https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/xylella-fastidiosa
  • http://www.confor.org.uk/media/246789/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-x-fastidiosa.pdf

7. December 2018

Death of Board Member Prof. Dr. Oreste Ghisalba

The management and board of directors of Biolytix have the painful duty to inform that Prof. Dr. Oreste Ghisalba, founding member of Biolytix, board member and longtime friend, unexpectedly died on 4. December 2018 at the age of 72.

The entire Biolytix team express their sincere condolences to Oreste’s wife and family.

With Oreste Ghisalba we lost a good friend and competent colleagues. His many years of experience and his network have shaped the Biolytix from the beginning and were essential for the success of the company.

The board of directors will announce Oreste’s replacement in due course.

18. October 2018

Accumulation of listeriosis cases in Switzerland

– Federal Office of Public Health informs: Unexplained accumulation of listeriosis cases
– Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes
– Biolytix routinely analyzes foods for Listeria monocytogenes

Witterswil, 18 October 2018 – Since mid-2018, the weekly statistics of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health have shown an unusual increase in listeriosis cases. The bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is found almost everywhere in the environment and can lead to listeriosis in humans.

Transmission takes place through the consumption of contaminated food. Listeriosis is a rare infectious disease, but it can have severe consequences in immunocompromised individuals. In women who become infected with Listeria during pregnancy, it can also lead to infection of the child.

The sources of infection are animal foods such as meat, sausages, fish, raw milk and dairy products (e.g., soft cheeses), but also vegetable foods (e.g., precut salads or fruits).

Biolytix routinely analyzes various foods for Listeria monocytogenes and can offer qualitative and quantitative test methods.

The result is available within 3-4 days. If interested, send us your food samples using the order form attached below.

Detection of Listeria monocytogenes

Method:
real-time PCR, after enrichment acc. EN / ISO 11290-1, qualitative
Duration: 3-4 days
Analysis code: Lmo

Method:
Germ count according to EN / ISO 11290-2, quantitative
Duration: 3-4 days
Analysis code: Lmo quant

(Source in german: BAG Bulletin 42/18: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/das-bag/aktuell/news/bag-bulletin.html)

Other microorganism analyses.

2. July 2018

Biolytix AG celebrates its 20th anniversary with a new logo, new website and new projects

– Anniversary celebration in the Technology Center Witterswil with over 100 invited guests
– New logo, new website, new customer portal – were unveiled and presented at the anniversary
– Speeches by Christoph Keigel (President of the Board – Biolytix AG), Dr. Remo Ankli (Kanton Solothurn Governing Council) and Adrian Härri (Founder and CEO Biolytix AG).

Witterswil, 2 July 2018 – Biolytix AG celebrated its 20th anniversary at the Technology Center Witterswil on June 29, 2018 with a big party. The service laboratory for molecular and microbiological analyzes has made a name for itself nationally and internationally over the past two decades and was able to thank over 100 international invited guests for their trust and loyalty.

What began twenty years ago with two employees and an idea is today a company with over 20 employees. In order to reflect the innovative progress of recent years in the appearance, Biolytix unveiled their new brand at the festival in front of gathered audience.

«The new appearance of Biolytix transports the old logo into a new and digital world. It stands for the digitization and modernization of the company, “says Adrian Härri, CEO and founder of Biolytix.

At the same time, the Biolytix website was re-launched with the new brand and a new customer portal was announced for the customers. The new customer portal will be presented to selected customers for the first time in the third quarter of 2018 and should significantly facilitate and improve data transfer and communication.

Christoph Keigel, President of the Board of Biolytix AG, highlighted in his address various bright spots of the last 20 years of Biolytix and thanked the management and the employees.

Dr. Remo Ankli, Kanton Solothurn governing councilor for education and culture, was able to underline the importance of the SME role in the Swiss economy.

Media requests to:

Marco Ferraro
+41 61 725 20 70
marco.ferraro@biolytix.ch

13. June 2018

Ethoxyquin in Fish Feed

Ethoxyquin in Fisch

Ethoxyquin is a Antioxidant that delays the oxidation of lipophilic Vitamins (Carotine, Xanthophylle, Vitamin A und Vitamin E). It was widely used for the preservation of fishmeal (especially feed for fish farms). Prior to its ban as a plant protection product, ethoxyquin was also used as a post-harvest treatment against tan in apples and pears.

In June 2017 the European commission has formally suspended the authorization for the antioxidant ethoxyquin (EQ) as a feed additive with the publication of Regulation (EU) 2017/962.

Biolytix can help check the Ethoxyquin values in fish feed and fish meat. The detection limits are extremely sensitive (µg/kg = parts per billion).

Detection Limits

Ethoxyquin + Ethoxyquin-Dimer: 2 µg/kg + 5 µg/kg
BHA (Butylhydroxyanisol / E320):  10 µg/kg
BHT (Butylhydroxytoluol / E321):  10 µg/kg

(Source: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2017.145.01.0013.01.ENG)

Contact us today to get a quote!

24. May 2018

Arsenic found in soil of municipality of Liesberg

Arsen Analyse

According to a newspaper article in the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung, arsenic was found in the soil in the municipality of Liesberg.

The authorities warn against eating and growing vegetables in the affected areas.

“Unfortunately, it often happens that we find harmful substances in everyday life.” says CEO Adrian Härri, “We can provide certainty with our analyzes.”

We support in soil analysis. If you want to analyze your soil (for example, earth, sand, mud, ..), or even vegetables or fruits, send us 10 gram. You will receive the result in 2-5 working days. The cost is CHF 60 (excluding VAT).

Offer is valid until the end of June 2018.

(Source: https://www.bzbasel.ch/basel/baselbiet/arsen-in-boeden-von-liesberg-verzicht-auf-gemueseanbau-empfohlen-132600705)

Contact us today!

26. April 2018

Spring is here, time to tidy the allotment garden

Schrebergarten

Spring is here and summer is around the corner. Time to clean up the allotment garden and sow the first salad and carrots.

However, caution should be exercised when applying pesticides. In Switzerland, up to 200 tonnes of pesticides are used annually for private purposes.

“We have often measured elevated pesticide levels in regional gardens.” says CEO Adrian Härri, “Unfortunately, hobby gardeners are often unaware of how many pollutants are in their soil.”

Biolytix analyzes the vegetables and soil for pesticides and heavy metals (lead, cadmium, copper and zinc) to make sure that the hard-working vegetables can be enjoyed without worry.

(Source in German: www.zeit.de/2018/16/schrebergaerten-schweiz-umweltschutz)

Contact us today!

13. April 2018

Dentalytix - Now part of Biolytix

Dentalytix - Now part of Biolytix

We are pleased to announce that on 1 April 2018 the Dentalytix business of Prochema AG, Allschwil, was handed over to Biolytix AG.

As a regional ISO17025 accredited service laboratory, Biolytix has established itself in the field of molecular and microbiology analyses in Switzerland over the last 20 years. Especially in hygiene control and monitoring, Biolytix has a lot of experience.

“Dentalytix was professionally managed and built by Prochema. We are pleased to continue the good work and expand the range of services for our customers” said Adrian Härri, CEO.

In the future, we look forward to offering hygiene monitoring in dental surgeries under the Dentalytix name. We not only offer the monitoring of surfaces and equipment hygiene, but also test the water quality and the hygiene status of the staff’s hands.

7. December 2017

"Traces of poison in organic salmon" Biolytix Quoted in Tages-Anzeiger

Adrian Härri, head of Biolytix, a company that conducts molecular biological and microbiological analyzes, repeatedly proves the poison in biofish.

“We have never had a sample that did not contain ethoxyquin,” says Härri. Anyone who thinks that the organic salmon is free of pesticides is wrong. “In fact, consumers are misled with the organic label,” says Härri.

Read full article

11. May 2017

GMO petunia on the European market!

Evira (Finnish food safety authority) has published on their web page on April 27th, 2017, that genetic engineering changes could be detected in petunia. These were petunias with orange-colored flowers which are merchandised in Finland under the trade names Pegasus Orange Morn, Pegasus Orange, Pegasus Table Orange, Potunia Plus Papaya, Go!Tunia Orange, Bonnie Orange, Sanguna Patio Salmon and Sanguna Salmon.

Biolytix AG is now able to carry out appropriate analyses for testing for GMO petunias in its ISO 17025 accredited laboratory. All it takes is 10 g of plant material. In addition to plant parts, seed can also be examined to determine whether the corresponding GMO markers are detectable. The analysis is carried out in 2-5 working days for 162 CHF. Express analyses are possible upon agreement within 24 hours or within 8 hours as a super express analysis.

Offer is valid until end of December 2017

Contact us with Questions.

14. January 2016

Bacteria: Biolytix in SRF 1 "Einstein"

Einstein Biolytix Video

On 14 January 2016 Biolytix was invited to be part of the television program Einstein as a bacteria expert. (Biolytix appearance at 04:34)

Go to the Video

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