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Challenges 2016, 7(2), 24; doi:10.3390/challe7020024

Early Warning of Biological Threats via Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy: A Case Study of Bacillus Spores

1
ENEA, Italian Agency for new technologies energy and sustainable development, Via Enrico Fermi 45, I-00044 Frascati, Italy
2
CREO, Electro Optics Research Consortium, SS 17 Località Boschetto, I-67100 L’Aquila, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Palmiro Poltronieri
Received: 31 October 2016 / Revised: 15 December 2016 / Accepted: 16 December 2016 / Published: 20 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges in New Technologies for Security)
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Abstract

A study on the application of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) in detecting biological threats is here reported. Simulants of deadly Bacillus anthracis endospores were used. This study proposes an automated device where SERS is used as a fast, pre-alarm technique of a two-stage sensor equipped with a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In order to check the potentialities of SERS in terms of sensitivity and specificity for on-site, real-time, automatic detection and identification of biological agents, two strains of genetically and harmless closely B. anthracis-related spores, Bacillus thuringiensis and Bacillus atrophaeus, were used as simulants. In order to assure the selectivity of the SERS substrate against B. thuringiensis spores, the substrate was functionalized by specific peptides. The obtained SERS measurements are classified as positive or negative hits by applying a special data evaluation based on the Euclidian distance between each spectrum and a reference spectrum of blank measurement. Principal component analysis (PCA) was applied for discriminating between different strains representing dangerous and harmless spores. The results show that the SERS sensor is capable of detecting a few tenths of spores in a few minutes, and is particularly sensitive and fast for this purpose. Post-process analysis of the spectra allowed for discrimination between the contaminated and uncontaminated SERS sensors and even between different strains of spores, although not as clearly. For this purpose, the use of a non-functionalized SERS substrate is suggested. View Full-Text
Keywords: chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) sensors; surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS); Bacillus spores; simulants; photonic sensor chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) sensors; surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS); Bacillus spores; simulants; photonic sensor
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Lai, A.; Almaviva, S.; Spizzichino, V.; Luciani, D. Early Warning of Biological Threats via Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy: A Case Study of Bacillus Spores. Challenges 2016, 7, 24.

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