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The aim of this study was to develop a rapid immunoassay to detect Salmonella bacteria. Skimmed milk powder (SMP) in buffered peptone water was inoculated with six Salmonella strains (Salm. typhimurium, Salm. virchow, Salm. enteritidis, Salm. give, Salm. ealing and Salm. arizonae) at three inoculum levels (about 2-200 cfu 25 g−1 SMP) and incubated (37°C) overnight. Heat-treated salmonella cells were immobilized on paramagnetic particles and detected within 3 h using the Salmonella genus-specific monoclonal antibody M105 in a microtitre plate based assay. The rapid Salmonella detection method combining immunomagnetic separation and ELISA had a total isolation and detection time of less than 24 h, which is significantly shorter than the conventional techniques requiring 72-96 h. The technique had a sensitivity limit of 105-106 cfu ml−1.