Nitrofurans are a broad group of drugs once widely used for the treatment of microbial and protozoal
infections in many livestock species. However, as concerns grew globally with regard to the potentially
carcinogenic and mutagenic effects of their residues in foods, they have been banned from use in many parts
of the world. In order to monitor compliance to these bans, it is essential to have fit-for-purpose testing methods.
Immunoassays are the screening tool of choice for many testing laboratories due to their relative low cost,
ease of use and high sensitivity. As is the case with all immunoassays, the most important reagents required
are high quality, high affinity antibodies that exhibit the required sensitivity and specificity. Generating such
antibodies for the nitrofuran family of compounds has required a great deal of effort in the design of immunogens,
as the compounds, due to size, are not capable of eliciting an immune response in hosts and are not easily
conjugated to carrier proteins. This article reviews the range of strategies used to successfully generate
suitable antibodies to a wide range of these drugs and their metabolites. In addition, the platform technologies
for nitrofuran detection have moved from simple enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)-based procedures
to more sophisticated multiplexing systems which can undertake faster and broader spectrum testing for
the parent drugs and their metabolites. Reviews of the technologies used for immunochemical detection of the
nitrofurans and of commercially available test kits are also presented.
Keywords: Nitrofuran antibiotics, AOZ, antibodies, immunoassays, food safety, derivatisation, hapten, immunogen.
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