Plasmonic Gold Nanoparticles for Detection of Fungi and Human Cutaneous Fungal Infections

Furong Tian, Dublin Institute of Technology
Tobiloba Sojinrin
Kangze Liu
Joao Conde

Document Type Article

Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, Vol. 409, No. 2, June 2017.


Fungi, which are common in the environment, can cause a multitude of diseases. Warm, humid conditions allow fungi to grow and infect humans via the respiratory, digestive and reproductive tracts, genital area and other bodily interfaces. Fungi can be detected directly by microscopy, using the potassium hydroxide test, which is the gold standard and most popular method for fungal screening. However, this test requires trained personnel operating specialist equipment, including a fluorescent microscope and culture facilities. As most acutely infected patients seek medical attention within the first few days of symptoms, the optimal diagnostic test would be rapid and self-diagnostic simplifying and improving the therapeutic outcome. In suspensions of gold nanoparticles, Aspergillus niger can cause a colour change from red to blue within 2 min, as a result of changes in nanoparticle shape. A similar colour change was observed in the supernatant of samples of human toenails dispersed in water. Scanning electron microscopy, UV/Vis and Raman spectroscopy were employed to monitor the changes in morphology and surface plasmon resonance of the nanoparticles. The correlation of colour change with the fungal infection was analysed using the absorbance ratio at 520 nm/620 nm. We found a decrease in the ratio when the fungi concentration increased from 1 to 16 CFU/mL, with a detection limit of 10 CFU/mL. The test had an 80% sensitivity and a 95% specificity value for the diagnosis of athlete's foot in human patients. This plasmonic gold nanoparticle-based system for detection of fungal infections measures the change in shape of gold nanoparticles and generates coloured solutions with distinct tonality. Our application has the potential to contribute to self-diagnosis and hygiene control in laboratories/hospitals with fewer resources, just using the naked eye. Graphical abstract Colorimetric method for fungi detection with gold nano particles.