SCENT: Hybrid gels for rapid microbial detection

This ERC Starting Grant has been awarded to Prof. Cecília Roque in 2014 to develop the urgently needed tools for rapid identification of bacterial infections.


Antimicrobial resistant bacteria are a global threat to the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections, causing over 25,000 deaths annually in the EU and costing over €1.5 billion a year. At present, microbial detection and identification takes between 24 and 36 hours, but for slow-growing bacteria, such as those causing tuberculosis, it can take more than a week.

Unusual human odours have been recognised as disease indicators since Hippocrates. We are developing bioinspired nose sensors as a fast and needle-free method of microbial detection. We are using new types of stimulus-responsive materials to detect and identify bacteria, in particular those most prevalent in human infections and associated with antibiotic resistance. The research will reduce detection times to a matter of seconds, and the research team hopes that by identifying bacterial infections so much sooner, lives will be saved, antibiotic abuse restrained, and the spread of infection better controlled. 



To learn more about this topic, please consult our publications:

Hussain, A, Semeano ATS, Palma SICJ, Pina AS, Almeida J, Medrado BF, Pádua ACCS, Carvalho AL, Dionísio M, Li RWC, Gamboa H, Ulijn RV, Gruber J, Roque ACA.  2017.  Tunable Gas Sensing Gels by Cooperative Assembly. Advanced Functional Materials. 1700803:1–9. (OPEN ACCESS)

Pádua, AC, Palma S, Gruber J, Gamboa H, Roque AC.  2018.  Design and Evolution of an Opto-electronic Device for VOCs DetectionProceedings of the 11th International Joint Conference on Biomedical Engineering Systems and Technologies. :48-55. (OPEN ACCESS)

Palma, SICJ, Traguedo AP, Porteira AR, Frias MJ, Gamboa H, Roque ACA.  2018.  Machine learning for the meta-analyses of microbial pathogens’ volatile signaturesScientific Reports. 8:3360. (OPEN ACCESS) 

Semeano, ATS, Maffei DF, Palma S, Li RWC, Franco BDGM, Roque ACA, Gruber J.  2018.  Tilapia fish microbial spoilage monitored by a single optical gas sensorFood Control. 89:72-76 (OPEN ACCESS).