A new laser-based test has been developed by scientists at University of Strathclyde to speed up the diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. The test uses nanoparticles and lasers to fingerprint more than one bacterium at a time — and so opens the way for targeted treatment.

The new process — called Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) — scatters laser light from a sample that has been combined with silver nanoparticles.

It is essential to identify the strain of meningitis as quickly as possible,” Dr Karen Faulds , who led the study, said.

“The great advantage of the SERS technique is that it gives sharp, recognisable signals, so we can more easily discriminate what analytes are present in a mixture.” Combining the SERS technique with chemometrics data-driven extraction of information from chemical systems means the amount of bacteria in a sample can be measured whilst simultaneously identifying the bacteria.