Article Highlight | 14-Sep-2022

Heimdall in water quality monitoring: A novel antibiotic composite electrode for improving the sensitivity of biosensor

Higher Education Press

Water quality monitoring is recognized as an effective measure to guarantee water safety as it provides real-time information online and raises alerts for incoming pollutants. Among all the environment monitoring technologies, biosensor stands out for its ability to demonstrate the biological effects of pollutants and has attracted wide attention. Biosensors based on electroactive biofilm (EAB) have been intensively investigated in recent two decades as it enables water quality early-warning in real-life where most pollution incidents are unpredictable, showing a comprehensive and immediate response toward many kinds of substances.

Recent development emphasized that the biosensor with high sensitivity has massive value on the water quality monitoring, which is considered a major metric for the performance of EAB-biosensors. Several efforts have been made to increase the sensitivity through regulating operation condition of EAB-biosensors by adjusting external resistance, applied potential and current, employing transient state or open circuit mode, enhancing mass transfer between the biofilm and influent, as well as by modification of EAB and regulation on its microbial community by adding signal molecules. However, these regulation technologies are not convenient for practical engineering application and are limited to specific cases, leading to the lack of feasibility. For example, antibiotics have also been used as the agonist due to the promotion of the enrichment of electroactive microorganisms (EAMs) and adjustment of genes expression. However, the general antibiotics employed in recent studies were soluble species, which were not applicable or eco-friendly for water environment monitoring with continuous flow of feed water. As a result, insoluble antibiotics is urgently needed to enhance of the sensitivity of EAB for practical engineering application.

Therefore, with the purpose of regulating the biofilm thickness and microbial community of EAB for improving the sensitivity of EAB-biosensor, the researchers from Tsinghua University, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University and Zhengzhou University used graphite powder (GP) with azithromycin (AZM), a kind of insoluble antibiotics, to form a novel AZM@GP composite electrode and to serve as the anode of EAB-biosensor. This study entitled “An antibiotic composite electrode for improving the sensitivity of electrochemically active biofilm biosensor” is published online in Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering in 2022.

AZM is a kind of insoluble antibiotics which belongs to macrolides group and establishes a major in-vitro antibacterial activity against aerobic Gram-positive cocci and Gram-negative bacillus. In this study, the novel AZM@GP composite electrode used as the anode of EAB-biosensor could affect the biofilm in the way that regulate the morphology and microbial community of EAB, then deliver stimulated sensing performance. The research team investigated the effects of improvement on the biosensor sensitivity with different antibiotic dosages. It was found that EAB-biosensor was greatly benefited from appropriate dosage of AZM (0.5% AZM@GP) with reduced start-up time period, comparatively higher voltage output, more readable electrical signal and increased inhibition rate (30%-65% higher than control sensor with GP electrode) when exposing to toxic formaldehyde. This may be attributed to the fact that AZM inhibited the growth of non-EAM without much influence on the physiologic or metabolism activities of EAM under proper dosage. It was found that azithromycin could increase the relative abundance of Geobacter and regulate the thickness of electroactive biofilm. Further investigation of the biofilm morphology and microbial community analysis suggested that the biofilm formation was optimized with reduced thickness and enriched Geobacter with 0.5% AZM@GP dosage.

This study developed a novel electrode applied in EAB-biosensor. Different from the conventional method, this electrode used the insoluble antibiotic as the agonist, which was applicable and eco-friendly for water environment monitoring with continuous flow of feed water in practice. This novel electrode is easily fabricated and equipped, therefore would be a promising way to facilitate the practical application of EAB-sensors.


About Higher Education Press

Founded in May 1954, Higher Education Press Limited Company (HEP), affiliated with the Ministry of Education, is one of the earliest institutions committed to educational publishing after the establishment of P. R. China in 1949. After striving for six decades, HEP has developed into a major comprehensive publisher, with products in various forms and at different levels. Both for import and export, HEP has been striving to fill in the gap of domestic and foreign markets and meet the demand of global customers by collaborating with more than 200 partners throughout the world and selling products and services in 32 languages globally. Now, HEP ranks among China's top publishers in terms of copyright export volume and the world's top 50 largest publishing enterprises in terms of comprehensive strength.

The Frontiers Journals series published by HEP includes 28 English academic journals, covering the largest academic fields in China at present. Among the series, 13 have been indexed by SCI, 6 by EI, 2 by MEDLINE, 1 by A&HCI. HEP's academic monographs have won about 300 different kinds of publishing funds and awards both at home and abroad.


About Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering (FESE) is the leading edge forum for peer-reviewed original submissions in English on all main branches of environmental disciplines. FESE welcomes original research papers, review articles, short communications, and views & comments. All the papers will be published within 6 months since they are submitted. The Editors-in-Chief are Prof. Jiuhui Qu from Tsinghua University, and Prof. John C. Crittenden from Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. The journal has been indexed by almost all the authoritative databases such as SCI, Ei, INSPEC, SCOPUS, CSCD, etc.

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