Rapid antibiotic susceptibility testing via electrochemical measurement of ferricyanide reduction by Escherichia coli and Clostridium sporogenes

Anal Chem. 2000 Oct 15;72(20):4957-64. doi: 10.1021/ac0003596.


Electrochemical measurement of respiratory chain activity allows rapid and reliable screening for antibiotic susceptibility in microorganisms. Chronoamperometry and chronocoulometry of suspensions of aerobically cultivated E. coli combined with the non-native oxidant potassium hexacyanoferrate(III) (ferricyanide) yield signals for reoxidation of the reduction product ferrocyanide that are much smaller if the E. coli has been incubated briefly with an effective antibiotic compound. Chronocoulometric results, obtained following 20-min incubation with antibiotic and 2-min measurement in assay buffer containing 50 mM ferricyanide and 10 mM succinate, at +0.50 V vs Ag/AgCl at a Pt working electrode, were compared with traditional disk diffusion susceptibility testing, which requires overnight incubation on agar plates; the results show significantly lower accumulation of ferrocyanide in all cases in which growth inhibition was observed in the disk diffusion assay. A range of antibiotic compounds (13) were examined that possess different mechanisms of action. Quantitative determination of IC50 values for penicillin G and chloramphenicol yielded values that were 100-fold higher than those obtained by standard turbidity methods after 10-h incubation; this is likely a result of the very brief (10 min) exposure time to the antibiotics. Addition of 5 microM 2,6-dichlorophenolindophenol, a hydrophobic electron-transfer mediator, to the assay mixture allowed susceptibility testing of a Gram-positive obligate anaerobe, Clostridium sporogenes. This rapid new assay will facilitate clinical susceptibility testing, allowing appropriate treatment virtually as soon as a clinical isolate can be obtained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Clostridium / drug effects*
  • Clostridium / metabolism
  • Electrochemistry
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Ferricyanides / metabolism*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / methods*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Ferricyanides
  • hexacyanoferrate III