Rapid, sensitive, on-site detection of bacteria without a need for sophisticated equipment or skilled personnel is extremely important in clinical settings and rapid response scenarios, as well as in resource-limited settings. Here, we report a novel approach for selective and ultra-sensitive multiplexed detection of Escherichia coli (non-pathogenic or pathogenic) using a lab-on-paper test strip (bioactive paper) based on intracellular enzyme (β-galactosidase (B-GAL) or β-glucuronidase (GUS)) activity. The test strip is composed of a paper support (0.5 × 8 cm), onto which either 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-β-d-glucuronide sodium salt (XG), chlorophenol red β-galactopyranoside (CPRG) or both and FeCl3 were entrapped using sol–gel-derived silica inks in different zones via an ink-jet printing technique. The sample was lysed and assayed via lateral flow through the FeCl3 zone to the substrate area to initiate rapid enzyme hydrolysis of the substrate, causing a change from colorless-to-blue (XG hydrolyzed by GUS, indication of nonpathogenic E. coli) and/or yellow to red-magenta (CPRG hydrolyzed by B-GAL, indication of total coliforms). Using immunomagnetic nanoparticles for selective preconcentration, the limit of detection was ~5 colony-forming units (cfu) per milliliter for E. coli O157:H7 and ~20 cfu/mL for E. coli BL21, within 30 min without cell culturing. Thus, these paper test strips could be suitable for detection of viable total coliforms and pathogens in bathing water samples. Moreover, inclusion of a culturing step allows detection of less than 1 cfu in 100 mL within 8 h, making the paper tests strips relevant for detection of multiple pathogens and total coliform bacteria in beverage and food samples.
Bacteria detectionBioactive paper sensorColorimetric
Chlorophenol red β-galactopyranoside
Limit of detection
Antibody-derivatized magnetic beads
5-Bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl-β-d-glucuronide sodium salt