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Faraday Discuss. 2006;132:281-92; discussion 309-19.

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering for the rapid discrimination of bacteria.

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  • 1School of Chemistry, The University of Manchester, P.O. Box 88, Sackville St, Manchester, UK.


Raman spectroscopy is attracting interest for the rapid identification of bacteria and fungi and is now becoming accepted as a potentially powerful whole-organism fingerprinting technique. However, the Raman effect is so weak that collection times are lengthy, and this insensitivity means that bacteria must be cultured to gain enough biomass, which therefore limits its usefulness in clinical laboratories where high-throughput analyses are needed. The Raman effect can fortunately be greatly enhanced (by some 10(3)-10(6)-fold) if the molecules are attached to, or microscopically close to, a suitably roughened surface; a technique known as surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). In this study we investigated SERS, employing an aggregated silver colloid substrate, for the analysis of a closely related group of bacteria belonging to the genus Bacillus. Each spectrum took only 20 s to collect and highly reproducible data were generated. The multivariate statistical technique of principal components-discriminant function analysis (PC-DFA) was used to group these bacteria based on their SERS fingerprints. The resultant ordination plots showed that the SERS spectra were highly discriminatory and gave accurate identification at the strain level. In addition, Bacillus species also undergo sporulation, and we demonstrate that SERS peaks that could be attributed to the dipicolinic acid biomarker, could be readily generated from Bacillus spores.

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