A new way of detecting bacteria allows you to study pathogens at the very site of infection

An international team of researchers has developed a new method for detecting bacteria and infections using fluorescent nanosensors. This allows pathogens to be tracked much faster than known methods.

Traditional methods of detecting bacteria require the collection and analysis of tissue samples. Scientists hope to eliminate the need to take samples by using tiny optical sensors to visualize pathogens at the site of infection.

The sensors are based on modified carbon nanotubes with a diameter of less than one nanometer. When exposed to visible light, they emit near-infrared light. In this case, the wavelength is 1000 nanometers or more—the fluorescent light changes when nanotubes collide with certain molecules. Since bacteria release a characteristic mixture of molecules, the light emitted from the sensors indicates certain pathogens’ presence.

In the future, this study will form the basis for optical detection of infections on smart implants, as sampling is no longer required. This will quickly detect a healing process or possible infection, leading to better patient care, the scientists explain. For example, a more rapid diagnosis of sepsis in blood cultures is possible.

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