Detecting invisible bacillus spores on surfaces using a portable surface-enhanced Raman analyzer

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



Since the distribution of anthrax causing spores through the U.S. Postal System in the autumn of 2001, numerous methods have been developed to detect spores with the goal of minimizing casualties. During and following an attack it is also important to detect spores on surfaces, to assess extent of an attack, to quantify risk of infection by contact, as well as to evaluate post-attack clean-up. To perform useful measurements, analyzers and/or methods must be capable of detecting as few as 10 spores/cm2, in under 5-minutes, with little or no sample preparation or false-positive responses, using a portable device. In an effort to develop such a device, we have been investigating the ability of surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to detect dipicolinic acid (DPA) as a chemical signature of bacilli spores. In 2003 we employed SERS to measure DPA extracted from a 10,000 spores per μL sample using hot dodecylamine. Although the entire measurement was performed in 2 minutes, the need to heat the dodecylamine limits field portability of the method. Here we describe the use of a room temperature digesting agent in combination with SERS to detect 220 spores collected from a surface in a 1 μL sample within 3 minutes.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE