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Frontiers in Nanotechnology


Magnetic nanoshells with tailored surface chemistry can enhance bacterial detection and separation technologies. This work demonstrated a simple technique to detect, capture, and aggregate bacteria with the aid of end-functionalized polyclonal antibody gold-coated magnetic nanoshells (pAb-Lis-AuMNs) as surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) probes. Listeria monocytogenes were used as the pathogenic bacteria and the pAb-Lis-AuMNs, 300 nm diameter, were used as probes allowing facile magnetic separation and aggregation. An optimized covalent bioconjugation procedure between the magnetic nanoshells and the polyclonal antibody was performed at pH six via a carbodiimide crosslinking reaction. Spectroscopic and morphological characterization techniques confirmed the fabrication of stable pAb-Lis-AuMNs. The resulting pAb-Lis-AuMNs acted as a SERS probe for L. monocytogenes based on the targeted capture via surface binding interactions and magnetically induced aggregation. Label-free SERS measurements were recorded for the minimum detectable amount of L. monocytogenes based on the SERS intensity at the 1388 cm−1 Raman shift. L. monocytogenes concentrations exhibited detection limits in the range of 104–107 CFU ml−1, before and after aggregation. By fitting these concentrations, the limit of detection of this method was ∼103 CFU ml−1. Using a low-intensity magnetic field of 35 G, pAb-Lis-AuMNs aggregated L. monocytogenes as demonstrated with microscopy techniques, including SEM and optical microscopy. Overall, this work presents a label-free SERS probe method comprised of a surface-modified polyclonal antibody sub-micron magnetic nanoshell structures with high sensitivity and magnetic induced separation that could lead to the fabrication of multiple single-step sensors.



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Copyright © 2021 Busch, Karim, Sun, Fry, Liu, Zhao and Vasquez. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. DOI:


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listeria monocytogenes, polyclonal antibody, gold-coated magnetic nanoshells, SERS detection, magnetic separation, surface functionalization, bioconjugation chemistry