A new bioelectrical device that can differentiate dead or alive bacteria within minutes could offer a faster diagnostic tool.
School of Life Sciences researchers at the University of Warwick have created a device that causes live bacteria to absorb dye molecules as they depolarise after being given electrical pulses.
The researchers have been awarded a grant from Innovate UK and have founded a company, called Cytecom, to commercialise the technology.
Dr James Stratford at Cytecom said: “The system we have created can produce results which are similar to the plate counts used in medical and industrial testing but about 20 times faster. This could save many people’s lives and also benefit the economy by detecting contamination in manufacturing processes.”
The research could lead to the development of medical devices that rapidly detect live bacterial cells, evaluate the effects of antibiotics on growing bacteria colonies, or could identify different types of bacteria and reveal antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Dr Munehiro Asally, Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, said: “Bacterial electricity can lead to societally important technology, while at the same time gaining fundamental insights into our basic understanding of cells.”
The technology consists of an electrical relay circuit with an Arduino Uno I/O board, and an electrode-coated glass-bottom dish. For their experiment, researchers inoculated bacterial cells of Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli on agarose pads and placed them on the electrode surface before being given electrical pulses.
This story appeared originally in our sister publication Laboratory News. See here for links to other stories and the Warwick research