A new platform for detecting pathogenic bacteria using
bacteriophages, viruses that use bacteria as their host is being explored by a research team in Canada.
Bacterial pathogens pose serious health risks, especially for
infants, young children, elderly and those with compromised immune
systems. The evolution of drug-resistant bacteria is particularly
concerning in the fight against disease.
‘Recombinant phage-receptor-binding proteins (RBPs) responsible for phage-host specificity can be used as biological probes and present numerous advantages over the use of a whole phage.’
the AVS 63rd International Symposium and Exhibition being held November
6-11, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee, Stephane Evoy, an applied physicist
from the University of Alberta, will explain how the team recognized
the limited reliability of antibodies in providing bacteria detection
with specificity. Instead they used phage-derived proteins, proteins
developed from the bacteria-invading viruses, for detection of
pathogenic bacteria to address this deficiency. This work has
implications not only in disease diagnosis, but also in food and water
"The high specificity of phages offers a potent
alternative for the targeting of pathogens," Evoy said. "More
specifically, recombinant phage-receptor-binding proteins (RBPs)
responsible for phage-host specificity can be used as biological probes
and present numerous advantages over the use of a whole phage."
study used skim cow milk spiked with different phages or combinations
of phages, such as mycobacteria (MAP) and Escherichia coli cells, and a
unique process to capture the DNA after incubation. The entire process
took less than 24 hours and resulted in significantly better sensitivity
of detecting targeted DNA.
"The use of phage-derived proteins
in such a manner was quite unique when we started that work back in
2005, but since then the approach thrived, and multinational companies
integrated this into their product line," Envoy said. "However, there is
still a lot of work to be done in terms of applying the technology to
diseases such as tuberculosis and staphylococcus infections."
addition to demonstrating this capture technique, the research team
designed and developed a sophisticated bacteria detector comprised of an
array of microresonators, able to enumerate bacteria over a large area
and detect the attachment of a single cell anywhere on the array. The
devices were prepared with their phage proteins, adding this high
specificity of detection to the spatial precision offered by the array
"We are looking forward to adapting this technology for
the rapid diagnosis of drug-resistant bacteria," Evoy said. "It could go
a long way toward make microbial testing methods both more rapid and