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Portable, Quantitative Detection of Bacillus Bacterial Spores Using Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering

The following abstract describes a recent paper that has been accepted for publication in Anal. Chemistry. The full article may be downloaded at the American Chemical Society.

Portable rapid detection of pathogenic bacteria such as Bacillus is highly desirable for safety in food manufacture and under the current heightened risk of biological terrorism. Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) is becoming the preferred analytical technique for bacterial detection, due to its speed of analysis and high sensitivity. However in seeking methods offering the lowest limits of detection, the current research has tended towards highly confocal, microscopy-based analysis, which requires somewhat bulky instrumentation and precisely synthesised SERS substrates. By contrast, in this study we have improved SERS for bacterial analyses using silver colloidal substrates, which are easily and cheaply synthesised in bulk, and which we shall demonstrate permit analysis using portable instrumentation. All analyses were conducted in triplicate to assess the reproducibility of this approach, which was excellent. We demonstrate that SERS is able to detect and quantify rapidly the dipicolinate (DPA) biomarker for Bacillus spores at 5 ppb (29.9 nM) levels which are significantly lower than those previously reported for SERS and well below the infective dose of 104 B. anthracis cells for inhalation anthrax. Finally we show the potential of multivariate data analysis to improve detection levels in complex DPA extracts from viable spores.

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