In vitro flow-through assay for rapid detection of endotoxin in human sera: A proof-of-concept

Nanomedicine. 2017 May;13(4):1483-1490. doi: 10.1016/j.nano.2017.01.012. Epub 2017 Jan 25.


An increase in endotoxin concentration in the bloodstream can trigger activation of innate immune response leading to septic shock. There is currently no method available for rapid endotoxin detection at a patient's bedside. We demonstrate a simple, portable and cost-effective strategy to measure endotoxin levels in human serum within 5min using a flow-through assay. A drop of serum containing LPS was spotted on an endotoxin-affinity membrane placed over high-wicking absorbent pads. Subsequent addition of polymyxin B sulfate drug-conjugated gold nanoparticles allowed concentration-dependent visualization of spots by the naked eye in the clinically-relevant range of 10pg/mL to 10ng/mL. The results were quantified using a concentration-calibrated color chart and the assay performance was tested with archival plasma samples of 18 known septicemia patients. The results showed a reasonably good correlation with the patients' hematological data. This proof-of-concept study puts forth an interesting alternative for early septicemia diagnosis in future.

Keywords: Endotoxin; Gold nanoparticle; Gram-negative bacteria; Lipopolysaccharide; Polymyxin B; Septicemia.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Endotoxins / blood*
  • Endotoxins / isolation & purification
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Point-of-Care Testing
  • Polymyxin B / chemistry
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Shock, Septic / diagnosis*


  • Endotoxins
  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Gold
  • Polymyxin B