Researchers have developed a new method for detecting bacteria and infections. They use fluorescent nanosensors to track down pathogens faster and more easily than with established methods. A research team describes the results in the journal Nature Communications.
Traditional methods of detecting bacteria require tissue samples to be taken and analysed. The team hopes to eliminate the need to take samples by using tiny optical sensors to visualise pathogens directly at the site of infection.
The sensors are based on modified carbon nanotubes with a diameter of less than one nanometre. If they are irradiated with visible light, they emit light in the near-infrared range (wavelength of 1,000 nanometres and more), which is not visible to humans. The fluorescence behaviour changes when the nanotubes collide with certain molecules in their environment. Since bacteria secrete a characteristic mix of molecules, the light emitted by the sensors can thus indicate the presence of certain pathogens. In the current paper, the research team describes sensors that detect and differentiate harmful pathogens that are associated with, for example, implant infections.
"The fact that the sensors work in the near-infrared range is particularly relevant for optical imaging, because in this range there are far fewer background signals that can corrupt the results," says the senior author. Since light of this wavelength penetrates deeper into human tissue than visible light, this could enable bacteria sensors read out even under wound dressings or on implants.
"In the future, this could constitute the foundation for optical detection of infections on intelligent implants, as sampling would no longer be required. It would thus allow the healing process or a possible infection to be detected quickly, resulting in improved patient care," says the lead author of the study. "The possible areas of application are not limited to this," adds the senior author. "For example, improved rapid diagnosis of blood cultures in the context of sepsis is also conceivable in the future."
Detecting bacteria with fluorescent nanosensors
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