Electrochemical Methodologies for the Detection of Pathogens
- ACS SENSORS
- Bacterial infections remain one of the principal causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The number of deaths due to infections is declining every year by only 1% with a forecast of 13 million deaths in 2050. Among the 1400 recognized human pathogens, the majority of infectious diseases is caused by just a few, about 20 pathogens only. While the development of vaccinations and novel antibacterial drugs and treatments are at the forefront of research, and strongly financially supported by policy makers, another manner to limit and control infectious outbreaks is targeting the development and implementation of early warning systems, which indicate qualitatively and quantitatively the presence of a pathogen. As toxin contaminated food and drink are a potential threat to human health and consequently have a significant socioeconomic impact worldwide, the detection of pathogenic bacteria remains not only a big scientific challenge but also a practical problem of enormous significance. Numerous analytical methods, including conventional culturing and staining techniques as well as molecular methods based on polymerase chain reaction amplification and immunological assays, have emerged over the years and are used to identify and quantify pathogenic agents. While being highly sensitive in most cases, these approaches are highly time, labor, and cost consuming, requiring trained personnel to perform the frequently complex assays. A great challenge in this field is therefore to develop rapid, sensitive, specific, and if possible miniaturized devices to validate the presence of pathogens in cost and time efficient manners. Electrochemical sensors are well accepted powerful tools for the detection of disease-related biomarkers and environmental and organic hazards. They have also found widespread interest in the last years for the detection of waterborne and foodborne pathogens due to their label free character and high sensitivity. This Review is focused on the current electrochemical-based microorganism recognition approaches and putting them into context of other sensing devices for pathogens such as culturing the microorganism on agar plates and the polymer chain reaction (PCR) method, able to identify the DNA of the microorganism. Recent breakthroughs will be highlighted, including the utilization of microfluidic devices and immunomagnetic separation for multiple pathogen analysis in a single device. We will conclude with some perspectives and outlooks to better understand shortcomings. Indeed, there is currently no adequate solution that allows the selective and sensitive binding to a specific microorganism, that is fast in detection and screening, cheap to implement, and able to be conceptualized for a wide range of biologically relevant targets.