ABSTRACT Organically modified silica (ORMOSILS) thin films produced by sol-gel method were imprinted with two bacterial strains as whole cells in order to develop an easy, fast and specific probe to detect and specifically identify these micro-organisms when present in water samples. An important feature of the imprinting process was the molecular finger-prints left by these microorganisms alongside morphology, into imprinted film cavities. The films also showed high selectivity toward the imprinted template and were able to discriminate between two very close bacterial species (E. coli and S. typhimurium). In addition, several central physical parameters of the experimental water solution were examined (i.e., pH, ionic strength and the organic load exemplified by NaCl and TOC concentration, respectively). The method sensitivity to different bacterial concentrations was studied by confocal microscopy (CLSM) and quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) tools. Results showed that increased bacterial concentrations favor rapid adsorption onto imprinted sol-gel films with high affinity, while low pH, increased organic load and high ionic concentrations (i.e., seawater) interfere with bacteria re-adsorption, reducing detection capability. Under average drinking water chemical composition the method proved to be highly efficient.
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