MicroCarb Inc. said Thursday that it has developed a rapiddiagnostic test to detect the agent that caused the deaths of twochildren and 300 cases of severe food poisoning in the PacificNorthwest in recent weeks.

The technology could also lead to a treatment for the illness,the Gaithersburg, Md., company said.

The patented technology detects the toxin produced by E. coli015/:H/, which caused the outbreak of food poisoning fromhamburgers consumed at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants, thecompany said. The test consists of special receptors that, whenadapted into a screening process, could rapidly detect thepresence of the dangerous bacteria in raw meat and in humanstool specimens.

While the incidence of such poisonings had been too small tojustify a major development effort, "clearly the situation haschanged," said Vic Esposito, chairman and chief executiveofficer of MicroCarb. "We are moving this work to a very highcorporate priority," he said.

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