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Sci Adv. 2019 Jan 11;5(1):eaau9650. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau9650. eCollection 2019 Jan.

Real-time tracking of fluorescent magnetic spore-based microrobots for remote detection of C. diff toxins.

Zhang Y1,2, Zhang L3, Yang L1, Vong CI1, Chan KF2,4, Wu WKK3,5, Kwong TNY6,7, Lo NWS8, Ip M8, Wong SH5,8,6,7, Sung JJY6,7, Chiu PWY7,4,9,10, Zhang L1,4,10.

Author information

1
Department of Mechanical and Automation Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
2
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
3
Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
4
Chow Yuk Ho Technology Centre for Innovative Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
5
Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Science, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
6
Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
7
Institute of Digestive Disease, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
8
Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
9
Department of Surgery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.
10
CUHK T Stone Robotics Institute, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin NT, Hong Kong SAR, China.

Abstract

A rapid, direct, and low-cost method for detecting bacterial toxins associated with common gastrointestinal diseases remains a great challenge despite numerous studies and clinical assays. Motion-based detection through tracking the emerging micro- and nanorobots has shown great potential in chemo- and biosensing due to accelerated "chemistry on the move". Here, we described the use of fluorescent magnetic spore-based microrobots (FMSMs) as a highly efficient mobile sensing platform for the detection of toxins secreted by Clostridium difficile (C. diff) that were present in patients' stool. These microrobots were synthesized rapidly and inexpensively by the direct deposition of magnetic nanoparticles and the subsequent encapsulation of sensing probes on the porous natural spores. Because of the cooperation effect of natural spore, magnetic Fe3O4 nanoparticles, and functionalized carbon nanodots, selective fluorescence detection of the prepared FMSMs is demonstrated in C. diff bacterial supernatant and even in actual clinical stool samples from infectious patients within tens of minutes, suggesting rapid response and good selectivity and sensitivity of FMSMs toward C. diff toxins.

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