Deep learning accelerates the detection of live bacteria using thin-film transistor arrays

Early detection and identification of pathogenic bacteria in food and water samples are essential to public health. Bacterial infections cause millions of deaths worldwide and bring a heavy economic burden, costing more than 4 billion dollars annually in the United States alone. Among pathogenic bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli) and other coliform bacteria are among the most common ones, and they indicate fecal contamination in food and water samples. The most conventional and frequently used method for detecting these bacteria involves culturing of the samples, which usually takes >24 hours for the final read-out and needs expert visual examination. Although some methods based on, for example, the amplification of nucleic acids, can reduce the detection time to a few hours, they cannot differentiate live and dead bacteria and present low sensitivity at low concentrations of bacteria. That is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves no nucleic acid-based bacteria sensing method for screening water samples.

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