alexa New biochip technology for label-free detection of pathogens and their toxins.

Author(s): Grow AE, Wood LL, Claycomb JL, Thompson PA

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Abstract microSERS is a new biochip technology that uses surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) microscopy for label-free transduction. The biochip itself comprises pixels of capture biomolecules immobilized on a SERS-active metal surface. Once the biochip has been exposed to the sample and the capture biomolecules have selectively bound their ligands, a Raman microscope is used to collect SERS fingerprints from the pixels on the chip. SERS, like other whole-organism fingerprinting techniques, is very specific. Our initial studies have shown that the Gram-positive Listeria and Gram-negative Legionella bacteria, Bacillus spores and Cryptosporidium oocysts can often be identified at the subspecies/strain level on the basis of SERS fingerprints collected from single organisms. Therefore, pathogens can be individually identified by microSERS, even when organisms that cross-react with the capture biomolecules are present in a sample. Moreover, the SERS fingerprint reflects the physiological state of a bacterial cell, e.g., when pathogenic Listeria and Legionella were cultured under conditions known to affect virulence, their SERS fingerprints changed significantly. Similarly, nonviable (e.g., heat- or UV-killed) microorganisms could be differentiated from their viable counterparts by SERS fingerprinting. Finally, microSERS is also capable of the sensitive and highly specific detection of toxins. Toxins that comprised as little as 0.02\% by weight of the biomolecule-toxin complex produced strong, unique fingerprints when spectra collected from the complexes were subtracted from the spectra of the uncomplexed biomolecules. For example, aflatoxins B(1) and G(1) could be detected and individually identified when biochips bearing pixels of antibody or enzyme capture biomolecules were incubated in samples containing one or both aflatoxins, and the spectra were then collected for 20 s from an area of the biomolecule pixel approximately 1 microm in diameter. In the future, we plan to investigate the use of hyperspectral imaging Raman microscopy for collecting fingerprints from all the pixels on the biochip, individually yet simultaneously, to enable the rapid detection of diverse pathogens and their toxins in a sample, using a single biochip.
This article was published in J Microbiol Methods and referenced in

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