TOX-detect: Development and harmonisation of innovative methods for comprehensive analysis of foodborne toxigenic bacteria, ie. Staphylococci, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens

Start: 1 January 2018
Duration: 2 Years
Domain: Emerging Threats
Keywords: Toxigenic bacteria, non-NGS based detection, mass spectrometry, immunoassays, toxicity tests
Contact: Jacques-Antoine Hennekinne (ANSES)

The Project #TOXDETECT

The TOX-detect project aims to contribute to an increased consumer health protection by filling the critical gaps of lacking methodologies to detect bacterial toxins and characterizing foodborne toxigenic bacteria.

Every year, around 5,000 food-borne outbreaks (FBOs) are reported in the EU (EFSA), with bacterial toxins produced by Staphylococcus spp., Bacillus spp. and Clostridium spp. Overall, nearly 10.000 human cases caused by bacterial toxins are annually reported in the EU (EFSA).  However, the true incidence of FBOs caused by toxigenic bacteria is underestimated for many reasons (misdiagnosis, under reporting, improper sample collection and laboratory examination; …). Moreover, FBOs caused by toxigenic bacteria share a common symptomatology, leading to difficulties in outbreak investigation to clearly identify the responsible causative agent. All this may also explain why the proportion of “weak evidence” FBOs is particularly high in case of bacterial toxins being the causative agent.

To contribute to the detection of bacterial toxins and characterising foodborne, the main objectives of TOX-detect are:

  1. The establishment of an EU-wide network focusing on the detection and identification of the toxigenic bacteria aureus, B. cereus and C. perfringens and all agents being at the interface of human and animal health, as well as food safety.
  2. Screening for information within Europe, resulting in the evaluation of existing and developed methods for screening/confirmation and identification of toxigenic bacteria.
  3. Generating and characterising a reference collection of bacterial strains.
  4. Implementation and development of:
    a) New (“non-NGS”) approaches for a better detection and quantification of bacterial toxins or factors involved in the virulence of toxigenic bacteria, including those that remain currently undetectable (emerging threats)
    b) Rapid (pen-side) methods allowing to discriminate between pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria and further to analyse their toxin gene expression will be developed and harmonised as complementary tools.
  5. Exchange of information and know-how between network partners, including information on protocols, reagents etc. to establish a European network of national reference, verification and diagnostic laboratories working on toxigenic bacteria.


Glasset, B., Sperry, M., Dervyn, R., Herbin, S., Brisabois, A., Ramarao, N. (2021). The cytotoxic potential of Bacillus cereus strains of various origins. Food Microbiology. 98, 103759. DOI:

Mahamat Abdelrahim, A., Radomski, N., Delannoy, S., Djellal, S., Le Négrate, M., Hadjab, K., Fach, P., Hennekinne, J-A., Mistou, M-Y., Firmesse, O. (2019). Large-Scale Genomic Analyses and Toxinotyping of Clostridium perfringens Implicated in Foodborne Outbreaks in France. Frontiers in Microbiology. 10:777. DOI:

OpenAIRE Publications

OHEJP TOX-Detect - Project Impact brochure




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