A New Biosensor for Rapid Identification of Bacterial Pathogens

EPA Contract Number: 68D01016
Title: A New Biosensor for Rapid Identification of Bacterial Pathogens
Investigators: Tabacco, Mary Beth
Small Business: Echo Technologies Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: April 1, 2001 through September 1, 2001
Project Amount: $69,733
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , SBIR - Monitoring , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


There is an immediate need for rapid, portable analytical instruments to ensure the safety of natural and manmade water supplies, including source, recreational, treated, and distributed waters. Echo Technologies, Inc., proposes a Phase I project to develop and demonstrate a new type of optical biosensor that is simple, rapid, specific, and sensitive. The biosensors are based on the use of fluorescently labeled virus probes (FLVPs), which are highly specific bacteriophage particles labeled with fluorescent reporters. The sensor is monitored by wavelength-specific fluorescence spectroscopy, which indicates the presence of the phage/host complex. In Phase I, sensors will be fabricated and evaluated against bacteria posing a human health risk in recreational and other natural waters, including Escherichia and an Enterococci such as Streptococci. This sensor approach is applicable to the detection of other harmful or signature bacteria, including Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium. Sensors will be evaluated against a specific test matrix, including preliminary interferent/matrix effects testing. A breadboard miniature optoelectronic interface and data acquisition system will be demonstrated for reading the sensor. In Phase II, a prototype four-channel biosensor array will be developed using commercial off-the-shelf photonic components, and tested with selected microbial contaminants.

Application of the FLVP technology to solid-state optical sensing represents a new approach to the real-time detection of bacterial pathogens. This approach eliminates the need for culturing to identify pathogens, and is an important departure from immunoassay or DNA-based sensing concepts. The miniature probes are perfectly suited for incorporation in a sensor array for simultaneous detection of many bacterial pathogens.

The proposed biosensor array is applicable to both military and civilian problems such as identifying terrorist threats, ensuring the safety of food supplies, agricultural engineering, and ensuring the purity of processing water in the biotechnology and semiconductor industries. The sensors also are ideally suited to the routine monitoring of municipal water supplies for outbreaks of enteric pathogens.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, water, bacteria, pathogens, fluorescently labeled virus probes, engineering, chemistry, EPA, biosensor, fluorescence spectroscopy., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Biology, Drinking Water, Recreational Water, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, Environmental Engineering, Pathology, pathogens, Streptococci, bacteria, microbial risk management, Bifidobacterium, escherichia, biosensors, enterococci

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    A New Biosensor for Rapid Identification of Bacterial Pathogens  | Final Report