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Sensitive Detection of Broad-Spectrum Bacteria with Small-Molecule Fluorescent Excimer Chemosensors

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posted on 17.08.2020, 15:12 by Aaron D. Cabral, Nafiseh Rafiei, Elvin D. de Araujo, Tudor B. Radu, Krimo Toutah, Daniel Nino, Bronte I. Murcar-Evans, Joshua N. Milstein, Dziyana Kraskouskaya, Patrick T. Gunning
Antibiotic resistance is a major problem for world health, triggered by the unnecessary usage of broad-spectrum antibiotics on purportedly infected patients. Current clinical standards require lengthy protocols for the detection of bacterial species in sterile physiological fluids. In this work, a class of small-molecule fluorescent chemosensors termed ProxyPhos was shown to be capable of rapid, sensitive, and facile detection of broad-spectrum bacteria. The sensors act via a turn-on fluorescent excimer mechanism, where close-proximity binding of multiple sensor units amplifies a red shift emission signal. ProxyPhos sensors were able to detect down to 10 CFUs of model strains by flow cytometry assays and showed selectivity over mammalian cells in a bacterial coculture through fluorescence microscopy. The studies reveal that the zinc­(II)-chelates cyclen and cyclam are novel and effective binding units for the detection of both Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacterial strains. Mode of action studies revealed that the chemosensors detect Gram-negative and Gram-positive strains with two distinct mechanisms. Preliminary studies applying ProxyPhos sensors to sterile physiological fluids (cerebrospinal fluid) in flow cytometry assays were successful. The results suggest that ProxyPhos sensors can be developed as a rapid, inexpensive, and robust tool for the “yes–no” detection of broad-spectrum bacteria in sterile fluids.

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