Using nanosensors to track down resistance genes


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria display distinct genetic sequences, depending on the resistance. We are developing nanosensors that are specifically capable of identifying these different sequences so that pathogens can be quickly and reliably tested for resistance.

Project description (ongoing research project)

We are developing a nanotechnology-based diagnostic method that can recognise antibiotic resistance in a very short time. Our technology centres around sensors coated with various biomarkers. Each of these markers only binds to certain genetic sequences, such as those responsible for certain resistances. When a bacterial sample containing the relevant sequence comes into contact with a nanosensor, the sensor bends – only very slightly, but still measurably. We will initially use the method to identify the genetic sequences underlying different resistances. This will deliver a basis for assessing whether the markers reliably recognise the relevant resistances in patient samples.


Current diagnostic techniques involve time-consuming and complex preparatory steps that can alter results. Our method dispenses with these steps because it can detect resistance in genetic material extracted from pathogens. This saves valuable time and is also less susceptible to errors.


In a first step, we identify various genetic mechanisms involved in antibiotic resistance – both resistance created by modifications to the bacterial chromosome as well as that resulting from the transfer of mobile genetic elements. Based on these mechanisms, we will develop suitably coated sensors capable of recognising resistance.


Our diagnostic method could be both significantly faster and more reliable than conventional tests. Since the technology used is compact and requires minimal additional resources, it is not only suitable for use in doctors’ practices, but also in countries that have few resources.

Original title

Fast Assessment of antibiotic resistance in bacteria by using nanomechanical arrays

Project leaders

  • Prof. Ernst Meyer, Departement für Physik, Universität Basel
  • Dr. Adrian Egli, Departement Biomedizin, Universitätsspital Basel
  • Prof. Shana Sturla, Institut für Lebensmittelwissenschaften, Ernährung und Gesundheit, ETH Zürich



Further information on this content



Ernst Meyer Departement für Physik
Universität Basel
Klingelbergstrasse 82 4056 Basel +41 61 207 37 67