Rapid Bacteria Detection by Bengaluru Researchers

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) have developed a paper-based platform for Rapid Bacteria Detection using a simple fluorescence technique. The platform is low-cost, easy-to-use and adaptable to different settings.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a major threat to public health, causing over a million deaths worldwide. Timely diagnosis of these bacteria can help doctors prescribe the right medication and prevent the spread of infections. However, conventional methods of diagnosis are expensive, time-consuming and require sophisticated equipment.

How it works: Rapid Bacteria Detection

The platform is based on a hydrogel matrix that contains a luminescent compound called terbium cholate (TbCh). The hydrogel emits green light when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light.

The researchers designed a substrate that mimics the structure of common antibiotics like penicillin and carbapenem, which have a ring-shaped component called β-lactam. They attached a molecule called biphenyl-4-carboxylic acid (BCA) to the β-lactam ring, which acts as a sensitizer for TbCh. When the substrate is mixed with the hydrogel, the BCA masks the TbCh and prevents it from emitting light.

However, when the substrate encounters bacteria that produce an enzyme called β-lactamase, which breaks down the β-lactam ring and confers resistance to antibiotics, the BCA is released and unmasked. This allows the TbCh to emit green light, indicating the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The intensity of the light also reflects the amount of bacteria in the sample.

The researchers infused the hydrogel-substrate mixture in a paper strip, which can be easily dipped into a liquid sample containing bacteria. They also collaborated with Adiuvo Diagnostics, a company based in Tamil Nadu, to design a portable device called Illuminate Fluorescence Reader, which can scan the paper strip and measure the fluorescence intensity.

Advantages and applications

The paper-based platform can detect antibiotic-resistant bacteria within 30 minutes, compared to hours or days required by conventional methods. It can also differentiate between different types of bacteria based on their β-lactamase activity. The platform is low-cost, easy-to-use and adaptable to different settings.

The researchers tested their platform on urine samples from patients with urinary tract infections and found that it could accurately identify antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They also tested it on bacterial strains that are resistant to multiple antibiotics, such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, and obtained positive results.

The paper-based platform has potential applications in clinical diagnosis, environmental monitoring and food safety. The researchers plan to collaborate with hospitals and other stakeholders to validate their technology and scale it up for wider use.


The study was published in ACS Sensors and was funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. It demonstrates a novel approach for rapid detection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria using a paper-based platform and a fluorescence technique. The platform could help improve treatment efficiency and prevent the spread of infections caused by these bacteria.

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