Mobile phone scanner detects harmful bacteria

Mar 07, 2012
Mobile phone scanner detects harmful bacteria
Credit: Ozcan Research Lab at UCLA

(PhysOrg.com) -- A mobile phone that could detect whether leftovers in your fridge are safe to eat could be heading to an app store near you. A device has been developed that attaches to mobiles and can detect small amounts of E. coli in liquid samples.

The scientists published their findings in the latest edition of the journal Analyst.

Outbreaks of E. coli pose a huge threat to health, especially in developing countries. Most strains of E. coli are harmless but some strains however, such as enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), can cause severe , according to the . E. coli is transmitted to humans primarily through consumption of contaminated foods, such as raw or undercooked ground , and contaminated raw vegetables and .

As existing detection devices are often expensive and complex, an accurate and efficient detection device could be extremely popular. There are more than five billion mobile phones on the planet and 70 per cent of these are in the

Hongying Zhu and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, developed a device able to take advantage of this technology. Zhu told the RSC's Chemistry World magazine: "Our cell phone based platform would be very useful to bring advanced technologies to remote and resource poor locations" adding that the phone provides "a ubiquitous platform for conducting advanced micro-analysis wherever cell phones work." 

The device consists of glass capillary tubes with light emitting diode (LED) lights on either end. E. coli antibodies are fixed to the sides of the capillaries and trap any E. coli present in a liquid sample. Secondary antibodies and quantum dots are then added to the capillaries and these bind to the trapped E. coli, capturing the bacteria in a sandwich complex. 

The LED lights excite the quantum dots, causing them to emit fluorescent light. The light emission is captured by the phone camera as pictures of the capillaries are taken approximately once a second.   

The team tested the device using water samples and milk and were able to selectively detect low concentrations of E. coli, even in the presence of other bacteria species. Zhu intends to develop the device so one phone could be used to detect different bacteria. 

Explore further: Dolphin 'breathalyzer' could help diagnose animal and ocean health

More information: Quantum dot enabled detection of Escherichia coli using a cell-phone, H Zhu, U Sikora and A Ozcan, Analyst, 2012, DOI: 10.1039/c2an35071h

Journal reference: Analyst search and more info website

Provided by Royal Society of Chemistry

3.7 /5 (3 votes)

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Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2012
I have a Sony Ericsson K800i, so this picture looks familiar but, with the preponderance of mobile phones and likewise easy access to 3D printers - who will step up to the plate and find the commercial and ethical opportunity to match this method to the bulk of mobile phones and make a real difference for the benefit of others across the whole world !!, find the passion and joy in doing something no deity has ever been able to do (ever):-
a. Alleviate suffering on a grand scale and not just for narrow humans
b. Educate - not by 1 dimensional lecture but by mature connectedness

We have so much to do :-) Education is where it starts,

Cheers