Abstract

In this paper we investigate the effect that adverse environmental and metabolic stresses have on the laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) identification of bacterial specimens. Single-pulse LIBS spectra were acquired from a non-pathogenic strain of Escherichia coli cultured in two different nutrient media: a trypticase soy agar and a MacConkey agar with a 0.01% concentration of deoxycholate. A chemometric discriminant function analysis showed that the LIBS spectra acquired from bacteria grown in these two media were indistinguishable and easily discriminated from spectra acquired from two other non-pathogenic E. coli strains. LIBS spectra were obtained from specimens of a nonpathogenic E. coli strain and an avirulent derivative of the pathogen Streptococcus viridans in three different metabolic situations: live bacteria reproducing in the log-phase, bacteria inactivated on an abiotic surface by exposure to bactericidal ultraviolet irradiation, and bacteria killed via autoclaving. All bacteria were correctly identified regardless of their metabolic state. This successful identification suggests the possibility of testing specimens that have been rendered safe for handling prior to LIBS identification. This would greatly enhance personnel safety and lower the cost of a LIBS-based diagnostic test. LIBS spectra were obtained from pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria that were deprived of nutrition for a period of time ranging from one day to nine days by deposition on an abiotic surface at room temperature. All specimens were successfully classified by species regardless of the duration of nutrient deprivation.

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