Scattered laser light gives bacteria away

US - By looking at the distinctive ways in which colonies of bacteria scatter laser light, US researchers have built a fast, cheap way of detecting the presence of potentially deadly microbes.

Inspectors in food processing plants currently culture samples in a Petri dish for 24 to 48 hours, before running biochemical analyses of any bacterial colonies that grow to see if they include dangerous species.

This is time-consuming and expensive, says J Paul Robinson, whose team at Purdue University in Indiana, US, devised the new, laser-based method. The device, called a laser scatterometer, can identify bacterial colonies after just a few hours of growth.

Bacterial colonies grow in complex structures that are specific to their species. When hit with a laser beam, Robinson and his colleagues have found that these structures scatter light into a unique pattern, akin to a fingerprint.

Source: New Scientist
calendar icon 31 July 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
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