Using silver nanorod arrays to enhance the signal produced by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), University of Georgia researchers have succeeded in detecting, with more than 97% accuracy, the mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria, which causes "walking pneumonia" among other infections. The technique detects disease from throat swab specimens within minutes—instead of days required by existing tests.1
Professor Duncan Krause describes the nanorod array, developed by collaborator Yiping Zhao, as similar to a brush with densely packed bristles, in which each of the silver nanorods extends out at a specific angle. Bacteria from the throat swab sample penetrate among the bristles and produce a laser-induced spectral signature that is amplified and analyzed by a computer program.
Although testing is currently being done in a lab, Krause says the device can be reduced to a size that could fit in a briefcase. "Our hope is that when we begin to explore the capabilities of this technology, it can be applied in point-of-care testing," he added. "Then the impact becomes truly significant." He also hopes that continued collaboration between nanotechnology and infectious disease specialists will enable the technique to detect other pathogens in clinical samples.
1. S.L. Hennigan et al., PLoS One 5 (10): e13633 (2010)