A guanidinium-rich polymer as a new universal bioreceptor for multiplex detection of bacteria from environmental samples

Sangsik Kim, Anakaren Romero-Lozano, Dong Soo Hwang, Jeong Yeol Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Protamine, a guanidinium rich polymer, is proposed as a universal bioreceptor for bacteria, towards rapid and handheld bacteria detection from complex environmental water samples without the need for specific antibodies or primers. Escherichia coli K12, Salmonella Typhimurium, and Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) were assayed, representing gram-negative, gram-positive, rod- and round-shaped bacteria. Samples and the protamine conjugated fluorescent particles were sequentially loaded to the paper microfluidic chips and flowed through the channels spontaneously via capillary action. The particles were aggregated via protamine-bacteria membrane interactions and unbound particles were rinsed via capillary action. A low-cost smartphone fluorescence microscope was designed, fabricated, and imaged the paper channels. A unique image processing algorithm isolated only the aggregated particles to detect all three bacteria (p < 0.05) with a detection limit of 101−102 CFU/mL. Protamine did not induce any particle aggregation with a model protein, algae, and virus. Successful bacteria detection was also demonstrated with environmental field water samples. Total assay time was < 10 min with neither extraction nor enrichment steps. In summary, a guanidinium-rich polymer showed a promise as a universal bioreceptor for bacteria and can be used on a paper microfluidic chip and smartphone quantification towards rapid and handheld detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125338
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Jul 5 2021


  • Bacteria detection
  • Paper microfluidics
  • Protamine
  • Smartphone microscope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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