Integrated optical biosensor for rapid detection of bacteria

Anna Mathesz 1 , Sándor Valkai 1 , Attila Újvárosy 1 , Badri Aekbote 1 , Orsolya Sipos 1 , Balázs Stercz 2 , Béla Kocsis 2 , Dóra Szabó 2 , and András Dér 1
  • 1 Institute of Biophysics, Biological Research Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged, Hungary
  • 2 Institute of Medical Microbiology, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary


In medical diagnostics, rapid detection of pathogenic bacteria from body fluids is one of the basic issues. Most state-of-the-art methods require optical labeling, increasing the complexity, duration and cost of the analysis. Therefore, there is a strong need for developing selective sensory devices based on label-free techniques, in order to increase the speed, and reduce the cost of detection. In a recent paper, we have shown that an integrated optical Mach-Zehnder interferometer, a highly sensitive all-optical device made of a cheap photopolymer, can be used as a powerful lab-on-a-chip tool for specific, labelfree detection of proteins. By proper modifications of this technique, our interferometric biosensor was combined with a microfluidic system allowing the rapid and specific detection of bacteria from solutions, having the surface of the sensor functionalized by bacterium-specific antibodies. The experiments proved that the biosensor was able to detect Escherichia coli bacteria at concentrations of 106 cfu/ml within a few minutes, that makes our device an appropriate tool for fast, label-free detection of bacteria from body fluids such as urine or sputum. On the other hand, possible applications of the device may not be restricted to medical microbiology, since bacterial identification is an important task in microbial forensics, criminal investigations, bio-terrorism threats and in environmental studies, as well.

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