Nanophotonics for bacterial detection and antimicrobial susceptibility testing

Giampaolo Pitruzzello*, Donato Conteduca, Thomas F. Krauss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Photonic biosensors are a major topic of research that continues to make exciting advances. Technology has now improved sufficiently for photonics to enter the realm of microbiology and to allow for the detection of individual bacteria. Here, we discuss the different nanophotonic modalities used in this context and highlight the opportunities they offer for studying bacteria. We critically review examples from the recent literature, starting with an overview of photonic devices for the detection of bacteria, followed by a specific analysis of photonic antimicrobial susceptibility tests. We show that the intrinsic advantage of matching the optical probed volume to that of a single, or a few, bacterial cell, affords improved sensitivity while providing additional insight into single-cell properties. We illustrate our argument by comparing traditional culture-based methods, which we term macroscopic, to microscopic free-space optics and nanoscopic guided-wave optics techniques. Particular attention is devoted to this last class by discussing structures such as photonic crystal cavities, plasmonic nanostructures and interferometric configurations. These structures and associated measurement modalities are assessed in terms of limit of detection, response time and ease of implementation. Existing challenges and issues yet to be addressed will be examined and critically discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date17 Sept 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Giampaolo Pitruzzello et al., published by De Gruyter, Berlin/Boston.


  • antimicrobial resistance
  • bacteria
  • evanescent-wave sensing
  • photonic biosensors

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