01/12/2012 05:07 pm ET

E. Coli Electric Shock Therapy Shows Promise In New Study

Recent studies, and the last episode of Homeland, have reaffirmed the efficacy of electric shock therapy of major depression and bipolar disorder. The treatment remains controversial, but it's considered a solid choice for the most serious cases. But could electricity have uses in fields of medicine other than psychiatry? A new study from researchers at Fort Valley State University and Virginia Tech says yes.

The study looked at the potential for the use of electricity as a kind of food irradiation to combat foodborne illness. Researchers grew cultures of E. coli on beef samples, then sent low-voltage alternating currents of electricity through the beef to see if the bacteria would survive. According to the paper, "The low voltage current reduced E. coli by 98.9% in 16 minutes."

The researchers were not explicitly testing the method for its effect on meat quality, so it's unclear whether electricity could provide a viable alternative to standard irradiation in the future. But with the public still largely mistrustful of irradiation as a food safety measure -- and with E. coli still a serious health hazard -- it seems like it's at least worth considering.