Smelling Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections using a whole-cell biosensor – An alternative for the gold-standard culturing assay

Igor Kviatkovski, Sagit Shushan, Yahav Oron, Idan Frumin, Daniel Amir, Lavi Secundo, Eitan Livne, Aharon Weissbrod, Noam Sobel, Yael Helman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Improved easy-to-use diagnostic tools for infections are in strong demand worldwide. Yet, despite dramatic advances in diagnostic technologies, the gold-standard remains culturing. Here we offer an alternative tool demonstrating that a bacterial biosensor can efficiently detect Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections in patients suffering from otitis externa. Detection was based on specific binding between the biosensor and 2-aminoacetophenone (2-AA), a volatile produced by P. aeruginosa in high amounts. We collected pus samples from ears of 26 subjects exhibiting symptoms of otitis externa. Detection of P. aeruginosa using the biosensor was compared to detection using gold-standard culturing assay and to gas-chromatograph–mass-spectrometry (GC–MS) analyses of 2-AA. The biosensor strain test matched the culture assay in 24 samples (92%) and the GC–MS analyses in 25 samples (96%). With this result in hand, we designed a device containing a whole-cell luminescent biosensor combined with a photo-multiplier tube. This device allowed detection of 2-AA at levels as low as 2 nmol, on par with detection level of GC–MS. The results of the described study demonstrate that the volatile 2-AA serves as an effective biomarker for P. aeruginosa in ear infections, and that activation of the biosensor strain by 2-AA provides a unique opportunity to design an easy-to-use device that can specifically detect P. aeruginosa infections.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)45-49
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.


  • 2-Aminoacetophenone
  • Otitis externa
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection
  • Whole-cell biosensor


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