Culture-free optoelectronic signaling to detect methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other bacterial pathogens by multidentate antigen-nanoparticle agglomerization from natural and designed intermolecular interactions

2014-2015 E²SHI Seed Grant

Research Team

Ellen Silbergeld
Professor, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health
Contact Dr. Silbergeld

Howard Katz
Professor, Department of Materials Sciences & Engineering, School of Engineering


Quickly detecting and identifying bacterial pathogens is a critical requirement in order to reduce human disease and death. One such example is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a ubiquitous multidrug-resistant pathogen often transmitted via person-to-person, food, and contact with contaminated surfaces. MRSA infections are increasing in the US and globally, and are now the leading causes of infection-related morbidity and mortality in the US. Similar to other bacteria, determining the presence of MRSA is time-consuming and can delay treatment and prevention of new MRSA cases.

Doctors Silbergeld and Katz teamed up to develop a new nanotechnology to quickly detect MRSA and thereby remove a major obstacle to bacterial infection control and prevent such pathogens from spreading in the environment and food supply, and among people. They examined approaches to provide much faster, more sensitive and more efficient methods for detecting and identifying high priority bacterial pathogens, with emphasis on MRSA. The team hopes to continue the research to enable real-time MRSA detections to save thousands of lives – and also hope the nanotechnology will prevent exposure to increasingly untreatable bacterial pathogens through environmental, occupational, food borne, and health care related exposures.



What is nanotechnology? 

What is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)?


Other related research at Hopkins

Exposure to Pig Farms and Manure Fertilizers Associated with MRSA Infections

Living near Livestock May Increase Risk of Acquiring MRSA

Center for a Livable Future article featuring Ellen Silbergeld’s research

Scanning electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting MRSA. Photo Credit: National Institutes
of Health

When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.
— John Muir