Bacteriophages and Rapid Detection of Bacterial Pathogens: A Novel Approach

Alan Cunningham, Katrina Campbell, Olivia McAuliffe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Foodborne pathogens have a major impact on public health having been shown to be responsible for 9.4 million cases of illness in the United States per annum. This highlights the need for stringent safety practices in the food industry in order to prevent contamination and reduce the instance of foodborne illness. Whilst culture-based methods remain the gold standard for bacterial identification, issues associated with time consumed and expertise required remain prevalent. Nucleic acid-based detection and antibody affinity-based detection offer viable alternatives to culture-based methods. Nucleic acid based methods work the principle of the detection of specific sequences in the target’s DNA, whilst antibody affinity assays are based on the principle of epitope recognition on antigens specific to the target bacteria. Whilst improving test rapidity these methods also have issues associated with the level of expertise that is needed to perform them correctly. Biosensors are largely automated pieces of equipment that translate a biorecognition event into a measurable signal. Biosensors offer a rapid, cost-effective means of pathogen detection with the need for significant levels of personnel training before use being limited to sample preparation and the operation of the user interface on the device. Biorecognition elements confer biosensor specificity. The most commonly exploited biorecognition elements are antibodies. The quality of an antibody based biosensor hinges on the level of affinity and specificity that antibody has for the target epitope. The stability of antibodies and room temperature is notoriously unreliable. These downsides to the use of antibodies have resulted in research into novel biorecognition elements. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect their host bacteria with great specificity. This specificity has been harnessed in the development of bacterial detection methods and in biosensors. Both bacteriophages and bacteriophage derived proteins have been used as biorecognition elements on biosensor platforms offering enhanced specificity compared to antibodies with comparable or better stability.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationReference Module in Life Sciences
PublisherElsevier B.V.
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-809633-8
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Bacteriophage, Biosensor, Cell-wall binding domains, Diagnostics, Food safety, Receptor binding proteins

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