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Use of Fluorescently Labeled Phage in the Detection and Identification of Bacterial Species

Volume 57, Number 9 (Sept. 2003) Page 1138-1144

Mosier-Boss, P.A.; Lieberman, S.H.; Andrews, J.M.; Rohwer, F.L.; Wegley, L.E.; Breitbart, M.


Phages are viruses whose hosts are bacterial cells. They identify their hosts by specific receptor molecules on the outside of the host cell. Once the phages find their specific receptors, they bind to the bacterial cell and inject their nucleic acid inside the cell. The binding between phage and host can be so specific that only certain strains of a single species can be infected. In this communication, the specificity of phage P22 for Salmonella typhimurium LT2 is exploited to allow the detection of Salmonella in the presence of other bacterial species. In particular, the dsDNA of P22 is bound to SYBR gold, a highly sensitive, fluorescent nucleic acid stain. When multiple phages infect the same cell, the fluorescence emissions of the phage DNA inside the cell allow it to be imaged using an epifluorescence microscope. The advantages of using phages as the bacterial recognition element in a sensor over antibodies are discussed.