Contaminated water is a serious concern in many developing countries with severe health consequences particularly for children. Current methods for monitoring waterborne pathogens are often time consuming, expensive, and labor intensive, making them not suitable for these regions. Electrochemical detection in a microfluidic platform offers many advantages such as portability, minimal use of instrumentation, and easy integration with electronics. In many parts of the world, however, the required equipment for pathogen detection through electrochemical sensors is either not available or insufficiently portable, and operators may not be trained to use these sensors and interpret results, ultimately preventing its wide adoption. Counterintuitively, these same regions often have an extensive mobile phone infrastructure, suggesting the possibility of integrating electrochemical detection of bacterial pathogens with a mobile platform. Toward a solution to water quality interventions, we demonstrate a microfluidic electrochemical sensor combined with a mobile interface that detects the sequences from bacterial pathogens, suitable for rapid, affordable, and point-of-care water monitoring. We employ the transduction of DNA hybridization into a readily detectable electric signal by means of a conformational change of DNA stem-loop structure. Using this platform, we successfully demonstrate the detection of as low as 100 nM E. coli sequences and the automatic interpretation and mapping of the detection results via a mobile application.
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