Translating bacterial detection by DNAzymes into a litmus test

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2014 Nov 17;53(47):12799-802. doi: 10.1002/anie.201407021. Epub 2014 Sep 11.


Microbial pathogens pose serious threats to public health and safety, and results in millions of illnesses and deaths as well as huge economic losses annually. Laborious and expensive pathogen tests often represent a significant hindrance to implementing effective front-line preventative care, particularly in resource-limited regions. Thus, there is a significant need to develop low-cost and easy-to-use methods for pathogen detection. Herein, we present a simple and inexpensive litmus test for bacterial detection. The method takes advantage of a bacteria-specific RNA-cleaving DNAzyme probe as the molecular recognition element and the ability of urease to hydrolyze urea and elevate the pH value of the test solution. By coupling urease to the DNAzyme on magnetic beads, the detection of bacteria is translated into a pH increase, which can be readily detected using a litmus dye or pH paper. The simplicity, low cost, and broad adaptability make this litmus test attractive for field applications, particularly in the developing world.

Keywords: DNAzymes; analytical methods; bacterial detection; biosensors; pH paper.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Bacterial Typing Techniques / methods*
  • Coloring Agents / analysis
  • Coloring Agents / chemistry
  • DNA, Catalytic / genetics
  • DNA, Catalytic / metabolism*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Paper
  • RNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Species Specificity
  • Urease / metabolism


  • Coloring Agents
  • DNA, Catalytic
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • Urease