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Nat Commun. 2013;4:1752. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2745.

Magnetic barcode assay for genetic detection of pathogens.

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  • 1Center for Systems Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The task of rapidly identifying patients infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis in resource-constrained environments remains a challenge. A sensitive and robust platform that does not require bacterial isolation or culture is critical in making informed diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. Here we introduce a platform for the detection of nucleic acids based on a magnetic barcoding strategy. PCR-amplified mycobacterial genes are sequence-specifically captured on microspheres, labelled by magnetic nanoprobes and detected by nuclear magnetic resonance. All components are integrated into a single, small fluidic cartridge for streamlined on-chip operation. We use this platform to detect M. tuberculosis and identify drug-resistance strains from mechanically processed sputum samples within 2.5 h. The specificity of the assay is confirmed by detecting a panel of clinically relevant non-M. tuberculosis bacteria, and the clinical utility is demonstrated by the measurements in M. tuberculosis-positive patient specimens. Combined with portable systems, the magnetic barcode assay holds promise to become a sensitive, high-throughput and low-cost platform for point-of-care diagnostics.

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