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Biological Research

Print version ISSN 0716-9760


KARGUPTA, Roli et al. Rapid culture-based detection of living mycobacteria using microchannel electrical impedance spectroscopy (m-EIS). Biol. Res. [online]. 2017, vol.50, 21. ISSN 0716-9760.


Multiple techniques exist for detecting Mycobacteria, each having its own advantages and drawbacks. Among them, automated culture-based systems like the BACTEC-MGIT™ are popular because they are inexpensive, reliable and highly accurate. However, they have a relatively long "time-to-detection” (TTD). Hence, a method that retains the reliability and low-cost of the MGIT system, while reducing TTD would be highly desirable.


Living bacterial cells possess a membrane potential, on account of which they store charge when subjected to an AC-field. This charge storage (bulk capacitance) can be estimated using impedance measurements at multiple frequencies. An increase in the number of living cells during culture is reflected in an increase in bulk capacitance, and this forms the basis of our detection. M. bovis BCG and M. smegmatis suspensions with differing initial loads are cultured in MGIT media supplemented with OADC and Middlebrook 7H9 media respectively, electrical "scans” taken at regular intervals and the bulk capacitance estimated from the scans. Bulk capacitance estimates at later time-points are statistically compared to the suspension's baseline value. A statistically significant increase is assumed to indicate the presence of proliferating mycobacteria.


Our TTDs were 60 and 36 h for M. bovis BCG and 20 and 9 h for M. smegmatis with initial loads of 1000 CFU/ml and 100,000 CFU/ml respectively. The corresponding TTDs for the commercial BACTEC MGIT 960 system were 131 and 84.6 h for M. bovis BCG and 41.7 and 12 h for M smegmatis, respectively.


Our culture-based detection method using multi-frequency impedance measurements is capable of detecting mycobacteria faster than current commercial systems.

Keywords : Mycobacteria; Tuberculosis; Electrical impedance spectroscopy; BD Bactec MGIT 960; M. bovis BCG; M. smegmatis.

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