A portable SERS sensor for pyocyanin detection in simulated wound fluid and through swab sampling†
A portable surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) sensor for detecting pyocyanin (PYO) in simulated wound fluid and from bacteria samples was developed. Solution-phase SERS detection protocols are designed to be compatible with two different clinical practices for wound exudate collection, namely negative pressure liquid collection and swabbing. For citrate-coated metal nanoparticles of three different compositions, i.e. gold (AuNPs), alloyed silver/gold (AgAuNPs), and silver (AgNPs), we firstly confirmed their interaction with PYO in the complex wound fluid, using fluorescence quenching experiments, which rationalized the Raman enhancement effects. We then demonstrated the Raman enhancement effects of the metal nanoparticles in the order of AgNPs > AgAuNPs > AuNPs. The limit of detection (LOD) achieved for PYO is 1.1 μM (in a linear range of 0.1–25 μM by the AgNPs), 10.9 μM (in a linear range of 5–100 μM, by the AgAuNPs), and 17.7 μM (in a linear range of 10–100 μM by the AuNPs). The AgNP and AgAuNP sensors together cover the sensitivity and dynamic range requirements for the clinical detection of wound infection, where PYO is present at a concentration of 1–50 μM. In addition, sterilized cotton swabs were used to collect wound fluid and transfer samples into AgNP solution for SERS measurements. This detection protocol was completed within 5 minutes with a LOD of 23.1 μM (in a linear range of 15–100 μM). The SERS sensing protocol was validated by its successful detection of PYO in cultured Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. The findings presented in this work pave the way towards point-of-care diagnostics of wound infections.