Quantitative dielectrophoretic tracking for characterization and separation of persistent subpopulations of Cryptosporidium parvum†
Microbial persistence to antibiotics is attributed to subpopulations with phenotypic variations that cause a spread of susceptibility levels, leading to the recurrence of infections and stability of biofilms. Herein, persistent oocyst subpopulations identified by animal infectivity and excystation assays during the disinfection of Cryptosporidium parvum, a water-borne pathogen capable of causing enteric infections at ultra-low doses, are separated and characterized by quantitative dielectrophoretic tracking over a wide frequency range (10 kHz–10 MHz). To enable the simultaneous and facile dielectrophoretic tracking of individual oocysts, insulator constrictions in a microfluidic channel are utilized to spatially modulate the localized field over the extent needed for defining oocyst trajectories and for obtaining high-resolution displacement versus time measurements under both, positive and negative dielectrophoresis. In this manner, by obviating the need for averaging dielectrophoretic data over a large collection region, the force response is more sensitive to differences in electrophysiology from sub-population fractions. Hence, the electrophysiology of sensitive and persistent oocysts after heat and silver nanoparticle treatments can be quantified by correlating the force response at low frequencies (<100 kHz) to the integrity of the oocyst wall and at high frequencies (0.4–1 MHz) to the sporozoites in the oocyst. This label-free method can characterize heterogeneous microbial samples with subpopulations of phenotypically different alterations, for quantifying the intensity of alteration and fraction with a particular alteration type.