A new laser-based test uses nanoparticles to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis, a disease that can lead to blood poisoning and brain damage if not discovered quickly. Scientists at Strathclyde University have used the surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) technique to scatter laser light from a sample that has been combined with silver nanoparticles. A newly developed laser can fingerprint bacterial menigitis for faster and more effective treatment. Courtesy Strathclyde University. The method can simultaneously fingerprint three pathogens associated with meningitis, in contrast to the less sensitive culture- and fluorescence-based detection methods used currently. “Essentially what you do is shine a laser beam at the molecule and measure the shift in wavelength,” said Karen Faulds at the university. “This gives you a fingerprint — what you call a vibrational spectrum.” “And you can definitively identify that molecule,” she added. The quantitative assay developed by the researchers — involving an enzyme called lambda exonuclease and the simultaneous hybridization of two complementary DNA probes to a target sequence — could be applied to any kind of pathogen that contains DNA, such as fungi or viruses. The study was published in Chemical Science. For more information, visit www.strath.ac.uk.