An Innovative Portable Biosensor System for the Rapid Detection of Freshwater Cyanobacterial Algal Bloom Toxins

Sarah Bickman, Katrina Campbell, Christopher T Elliott, Caroline S Murphy, Richard J O'Kennedy, Philip Papst, Michael Lochhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
599 Downloads (Pure)


Harmful algal blooms in freshwater systems are increasingly common and present threats to drinking water systems, recreational waters, and ecosystems. A highly innovative simple to use, portable biosensor system (MBio) for the rapid and simultaneous detection of multiple cyanobacterial toxins in freshwater is demonstrated. The system utilizes a novel planar waveguide optical sensor that delivers quantitative fluorescent competitive immunoassay results in a disposable cartridge. Data are presented for the world's first duplex microcystin (MC) / cylindrospermopsin (CYN) assay cartridge using a combination of fluorophore-conjugated monoclonal antibodies as detector molecules. The on-cartridge detection limits of 20% inhibitory concentration (IC20) was 0.4 µg/L for MC and 0.7 µg/L for CYN. MC assay coverage of eight important MC congeners was demonstrated. Validation using 45 natural lake water samples from Colorado and Lake Erie showed quantitative correlation with commercially available laboratory-based enzyme linked immunosorbent assays. A novel cell lysis module was demonstrated using cyanobacteria cultures. Results show equivalent or better performance than the gold-standard but more tedious 3X freeze-thaw method, with > 90% cell lysis for laboratory cultures. The MBio system holds promise as a versatile tool for multiplexed field-based cyanotoxin detection, with future analyte expansion including saxitoxin, anatoxin-a, and marine biotoxins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
JournalEnvironmental science & technology
Early online date13 Sep 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 13 Sep 2018


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