Editorial Feature

Biosensors and their Role in Antibiotic Monitoring

Biosensors have become crucial tools in various fields, including healthcare, environmental monitoring, and food safety. These devices combine biological recognition elements with physical transducers to convert a biological response into an electrical signal, allowing for the detection and quantification of specific substances.

In antibiotic monitoring and control, biosensors offer a promising approach to improve therapeutic outcomes, combat antibiotic resistance, and ensure effective drug dosing.

Biosensors and their Role in Antibiotics Monitoring

Image Credit: Babul Hosen/Shutterstock.com

Evolution of Biosensor Technology

The field of biosensors has significantly evolved since its inception. Early biosensors were relatively simple devices, typically consisting of an enzyme immobilized on a transducer. The interaction between the enzyme and the target analyte would produce a measurable signal. The first biosensor, invented by Leland C. Clark in 1956, used an oxygen electrode to measure glucose levels in blood, marking the beginning of biosensor technology.1,2

Over time, advancements in nanotechnology and materials science have led to the creation of more sophisticated biosensors capable of higher sensitivity and specificity. The application of molecular biology techniques has also played a significant role in the evolution of biosensors.

The integration of recombinant DNA technology has facilitated the production of highly specific biorecognition elements, such as engineered antibodies and aptamers, which can be customized to identify a wide array of targets, including various antibiotics and bacterial resistance markers.1,2

Principles of Biosensor Technology

Modern biosensors typically consist of three main components: a bioreceptor, a transducer, and a signal processor. The bioreceptor, which can be an enzyme, antibody, nucleic acid, or cell receptor, specifically interacts with the target analyte. This interaction produces a change that the transducer converts into a measurable signal. The signal processor then amplifies and processes this signal for display and analysis.1,2

Types of Biosensors

There are several types of biosensors based on the transduction method used.

Electrochemical Biosensors: These biosensors measure changes in electrical properties, such as current, potential, or impedance, resulting from the interaction between the bioreceptor and the target analyte. Electrochemical biosensors are widely used due to their high sensitivity, simplicity, and low cost.1

Optical Biosensors: These devices detect changes in light properties, such as absorption, fluorescence, or surface plasmon resonance, upon interaction with the analyte. Optical biosensors are known for their high sensitivity and specificity, making them suitable for detecting low concentrations of antibiotics and resistance markers.1

Mass-based Biosensors: These biosensors measure changes in mass or mechanical properties resulting from the binding of the target analyte to the bioreceptor. Examples include quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) and surface acoustic wave (SAW) biosensors. They are handy for detecting larger biomolecules and complex formations.1

Thermal Biosensors: These devices detect changes in temperature resulting from the biochemical reaction between the bioreceptor and the target analyte. Although less common, thermal biosensors can provide valuable information in specific applications where thermal changes are significant.1

The choice of bioreceptor and transduction method depends on the specific application, desired sensitivity, and detection limits. Advanced biosensors often combine multiple transduction methods to achieve higher performance and a broader application range.1

Real-Time Monitoring of Antibiotics using  Biosensors

One of the most critical applications of biosensors in healthcare is the real-time monitoring of antibiotics, especially in critically ill patients. Traditional methods of measuring antibiotic levels in plasma are often slow and cumbersome, leading to delays in adjusting dosages. Biosensors can provide rapid and accurate measurements, facilitating timely therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) and ensuring optimal dosing.3

A recent study in Antibiotics demonstrated the use of ex vivo point-of-care biosensors and in vivo continuous monitoring devices for real-time antibiotic monitoring in critically ill patients. These biosensors utilize biorecognition elements to detect specific antibiotics and provide real-time data, allowing healthcare providers to adjust dosages promptly and avoid potential toxicity or subtherapeutic levels.3

Biosensors in Combating Antimicrobial Resistance

Biosensors are important in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is a growing health problem. Overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics have made AMR worse. Biosensors help by quickly finding bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and checking if antibiotic treatments are working. By giving quick and accurate information, biosensors help people make good choices about using antibiotics, which can lower the chances of bacteria becoming resistant.4

Recent improvements in biosensor technology have made it possible to build devices that can find certain resistance genes and patterns of resistance. These biosensors can identify resistant bacteria in places like clinics, on farms, and in the environment, which helps people take action and control infections better.4

Point-of-Care Diagnostics

The compactness and user-friendly nature of biosensors make them well-suited for point-of-care (POC) diagnostics. In environments with limited resources and restricted access to advanced laboratory facilities, biosensors offer a practical solution for monitoring antibiotic levels and identifying bacterial infections. POC biosensors can deliver immediate results, facilitating timely treatment decisions and enhancing patient outcomes.5

For instance, biosensors utilizing lateral flow assays (similar to pregnancy tests) have been designed for the quick identification of bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance. These devices are user-friendly, require minimal training, and can provide results within minutes.5

Integration with Wearable Technology

A developing trend in biosensor technology involves its incorporation with wearable devices. It has considerable potential for continuously monitoring antibiotics and patient health. Wearable biosensors can be engineered to monitor various physiological parameters, including real-time antibiotic levels continuously. These devices can offer valuable data for adjusting dosages and ensuring the most favorable therapeutic outcomes.3,6

Recent progress has led to the development of flexible, skin-adherent biosensors that can continuously monitor biomarkers in sweat, interstitial fluid, or blood. These wearable biosensors utilize microfluidic technology to collect and analyze small volumes of bodily fluids, facilitating continuous and non-invasive antibiotic-level monitoring. The data gathered by wearable biosensors can be wirelessly transmitted to healthcare providers, allowing for remote monitoring and timely interventions.6

Fluorescent Biosensors for Ampicillin Detection

Recent developments in fluorescent biosensors have significantly enhanced the detection of antibiotics. In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers developed special micromaterials coated with chitosan and doped with manganese (Mn) to detect Penicillin. These materials leverage the unique photoluminescent properties of Mn-doped ZnS to provide a dual-channel fluorescent signal, which is highly sensitive to the presence of ampicillin. The chitosan layer is key to this system, which keeps the micromaterials stable and helps them bind to ampicillin molecules.7

Advances in Nano-Biosensors

The integration of nanotechnology has revolutionized biosensor design and functionality. Nanomaterials, such as nanoparticles, nanowires, and carbon nanotubes, have been incorporated into biosensors to enhance their performance. These tiny materials have very high surface area compared to their size, conduct electricity well, and have special light properties. This helps the biosensors to be more sensitive and give results more quickly.2

For example, gold nanoparticles and quantum dots are frequently used in biosensors for their ability to enhance signal transduction and provide visual readouts. Carbon nanotubes and nanowires, on the other hand, are employed for their high electrical conductivity, which improves the sensitivity and detection limits of electrochemical biosensors.2

Clinical Integration and Challenges

While the potential of biosensors in antibiotics monitoring is significant, their clinical integration faces several challenges. The main concern is ensuring the precision, reliability, and consistency of biosensors in various clinical environments. Furthermore, the approval processes for new biosensor technologies can be prolonged and intricate, hindering their widespread adoption.1,2

Standardizing the assessment of biosensor performance is crucial to ensure their consistent and reliable use in clinical settings. Collaborations among researchers, healthcare professionals, and regulatory authorities are necessary to tackle these challenges and promote the integration of biosensors into standard healthcare practices.1,2

Future Prospects and Conclusion

The future for biosensors in monitoring and controlling antibiotics appears bright, given the ongoing efforts in research and development to enhance their capabilities and broaden their applications. Moreover, integrating technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into biosensors will improve data analysis and predictive modeling, leading to more personalized and precise antibiotic treatments.

In conclusion, biosensors are a valuable tool in the fight against antibiotic resistance and the optimization of antibiotic therapies. Due to their ability to provide real-time, precise data on antibiotic levels and patterns of bacterial resistance, has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes and reduce the spread of resistant infections. Continued innovation and cooperation in this area will be crucial to fully exploit the capabilities of biosensors in antibiotics monitoring and control.

References and Further Reading

  1. P. Tetyana, P. Morgan Shumbula, and Z. Njengele-Tetyana. (2021). Biosensors: Design, Development and Applications. Nanopores. IntechOpen. DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.97576.
  2. Bhattarai, P. and Hameed, S. (2020). Basics of Biosensors and Nanobiosensors. Nanobiosensors (eds A. Wu and W.S. Khan). DOI: 10.1002/9783527345137.ch1
  3. Mishi, R. D. et al. (2023). Real-Time Monitoring of Antibiotics in the Critically Ill Using Biosensors. Antibiotics12 (10), 1478. DOI: 10.3390/antibiotics12101478
  4. Reynoso, E. C.; Laschi, S.; Palchetti, I.; Torres, E. (2021). Advances in Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Using Sensors and Biosensors: A Review. Chemosensors9 (8), 232. DOI: 10.3390/chemosensors9080232
  5. Patil, A. A.; Kaushik, P.; Jain, R. D.; Dandekar, P. P. (2022). Assessment of Urinary Biomarkers for Infectious Diseases Using Lateral Flow Assays: A Comprehensive Overview. ACS Infect. Dis. DOI: 10.1021/acsinfecdis.2c00449
  6. Bian, S.; Zhu, B.; Rong, G.; Sawan, M. (2020). Towards Wearable and Implantable Continuous Drug Monitoring: A Review. J. Pharm. Anal. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpha.2020.08.001
  7. Nguyen, S. H.; Nguyen, V.-N.; Tran, M. T. (2024). Dual-channel fluorescent sensors based on chitosan-coated Mn-doped ZnS micromaterials to detect ampicillin. Sci. Rep., 14 (1). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-59772-3

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Ankit Singh

Written by

Ankit Singh

Ankit is a research scholar based in Mumbai, India, specializing in neuronal membrane biophysics. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and has a keen interest in building scientific instruments. He is also passionate about content writing and can adeptly convey complex concepts. Outside of academia, Ankit enjoys sports, reading books, and exploring documentaries, and has a particular interest in credit cards and finance. He also finds relaxation and inspiration in music, especially songs and ghazals.

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