(19)
(11)EP 2 414 809 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
14.08.2019 Bulletin 2019/33

(21)Application number: 10759210.7

(22)Date of filing:  22.03.2010
(51)Int. Cl.: 
G01N 1/40  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/US2010/028111
(87)International publication number:
WO 2010/114725 (07.10.2010 Gazette  2010/40)

(54)

MICROORGANISM CONCENTRATION PROCESS AND DEVICE

VERFAHREN UND VORRICHTUNG ZUR KONZENTRATION VON MIKROORGANISMEN

PROCÉDÉ ET DISPOSITIF POUR LA CONCENTRATION D'UN MICROORGANISME


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 03.04.2009 US 166262 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
08.02.2012 Bulletin 2012/06

(73)Proprietor: 3M Innovative Properties Company
St. Paul, MN 55133-3427 (US)

(72)Inventors:
  • KSHIRSAGAR, Manjiri T.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55133-3427 (US)
  • RABINS, Andrew W.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55133-3427 (US)

(74)Representative: Vossius & Partner Patentanwälte Rechtsanwälte mbB 
Siebertstrasse 3
81675 München
81675 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
US-A1- 2003 140 785
US-B1- 6 196 050
US-A1- 2007 212 747
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    FIELD



    [0001] This invention relates to processes for capturing or concentrating microorganisms such that they remain viable for detection or assay. In other aspects, this invention also relates to concentration devices (and diagnostic kits comprising the devices) for use in carrying out such processes and to methods for device preparation.

    BACKGROUND



    [0002] Food-borne illnesses and hospital-acquired infections resulting from microorganism contamination are a concern in numerous locations all over the world. Thus, it is often desirable or necessary to assay for the presence of bacteria or other microorganisms in various clinical, food, environmental, or other samples, in order to determine the identity and/or the quantity of the microorganisms present.
    US 2003/0140785 refers to a filter medium comprising:

    a microporous structure comprising an array of active particles, said microporous structure having a mean flow path of less than about 2 microns; and

    a microbiological interception enhancing agent comprising a cationic material having a medium to high charge density and a molecular weight greater than about 5000 Daltons, adsorbed on at least a portion of said microporous structure, and a biologically active metal in direct proximity to the cationic material and also on at least a portion of said microporous structure.

    Bacterial DNA or bacterial RNA, for example, can be assayed to assess the presence or absence of a particular bacterial species even in the presence of other bacterial species. The ability to detect the presence of a particular bacterium, however, depends, at least in part, on the concentration of the bacterium in the sample being analyzed. Bacterial samples can be plated or cultured to increase the numbers of the bacteria in the sample to ensure an adequate level for detection, but the culturing step often requires substantial time and therefore can significantly delay the assessment results.
    Concentration of the bacteria in the sample can shorten the culturing time or even eliminate the need for a culturing step. Thus, methods have been developed to isolate (and thereby concentrate) particular bacterial strains by using antibodies specific to the strain (for example, in the form of antibody-coated magnetic or non-magnetic particles). Such methods, however, have tended to be expensive and still somewhat slower than desired for at least some diagnostic applications.

    [0003] Concentration methods that are not strain-specific have also been used (for example, to obtain a more general assessment of the microorganisms present in a sample). After concentration of a mixed population of microorganisms, the presence of particular strains can be determined, if desired, by using strain-specific probes.

    [0004] Non-specific concentration or capture of microorganisms has been achieved through methods based upon carbohydrate and lectin protein interactions. Chitosan-coated supports have been used as non-specific capture devices, and substances (for example, carbohydrates, vitamins, iron-chelating compounds, and siderophores) that serve as nutrients for microorganisms have also been described as being useful as ligands to provide non-specific capture of microorganisms.

    [0005] Various inorganic materials (for example, hydroxyapatite and metal hydroxides) have been used to non-specifically bind and concentrate bacteria. Physical concentration methods (for example, filtration, chromatography, centrifugation, and gravitational settling) have also been utilized for non-specific capture, with and/or without the use of inorganic binding agents. Such non-specific concentration methods have varied in speed (at least some food testing procedures still requiring at least overnight incubation as a primary cultural enrichment step), cost (at least some requiring expensive equipment, materials, and/or trained technicians), sample requirements (for example, sample nature and/or volume limitations), space requirements, ease of use (at least some requiring complicated multi-step processes), suitability for on-site use, and/or effectiveness.

    SUMMARY



    [0006] Thus, we recognize that there is an urgent need for processes for rapidly detecting pathogenic microorganisms. Such processes will preferably be not only rapid but also low in cost, simple (involving no complex equipment or procedures), and/or effective under a variety of conditions (for example, with varying types of sample matrices and/or pathogenic microorganisms, varying microorganism loads, and varying sample volumes).

    [0007] Briefly, in one aspect, this invention provides a process for non-specifically concentrating the strains of microorganisms (for example, strains of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, protozoans, viruses (including both non-enveloped and enveloped viruses), and bacterial endospores) present in a sample, such that the microorganisms remain viable for the purpose of detection or assay of one or more of the strains. The process is as recited in independent claim 1 and comprises (a) providing a concentration device comprising a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising at least one concentration agent that comprises diatomaceous earth bearing, on at least a portion of its surface, a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof, wherein said at least one concentration agent has a negative zeta potential at a pH of 7, (b) providing a sample (preferably, in the form of a fluid) comprising at least one microorganism strain; and (c) contacting the concentration device with the sample
    (preferably, by passing the sample through the concentration device) such that at least a portion of the at least one microorganism strain is bound to or captured by the concentration device.

    [0008] Preferably, the process further comprises detecting the presence of at least one bound microorganism strain, by culture-based, microscopy/imaging, genetic, luminescence-based, or immunologic detection methods. The process can optionally further comprise separating the concentration device from the sample and/or culturally enriching at least one bound microorganism strain (for example, by incubating the separated concentration device in a general or microorganism-specific culture medium, depending upon whether general or selective microorganism enrichment is desired) and/or isolating or separating captured microorganisms (or one or more components thereof) from the concentration device after sample contacting (for example, by passing an elution agent or a lysis agent through the concentration device).

    [0009] The process of the invention does not target a specific microorganism strain. Rather, it has been discovered that a concentration device comprising certain relatively inexpensive, inorganic materials in a sintered porous polymer matrix can be surprisingly effective in capturing a variety of microorganisms (and surprisingly effective in isolating or separating the captured microorganisms via elution, relative to corresponding devices without the inorganic material). Such devices can be used to concentrate the microorganism strains present in a sample (for example, a food sample) in a non-strain-specific manner, so that one or more of the microorganism strains (preferably, one or more strains of bacteria) can be more easily and rapidly assayed.

    [0010] The process of the invention is relatively simple and low in cost (requiring no complex equipment or expensive strain-specific materials) and can be relatively fast (preferred embodiments capturing at least about 70 percent (more preferably, at least about 80 percent; most preferably, at least about 90 percent) of the microorganisms present in a relatively homogeneous fluid sample in less than about 30 minutes, relative to a corresponding control sample having no contact with the concentration device). In addition, the process can be effective with a variety of microoganisms (including pathogens such as both gram positive and gram negative bacteria) and with a variety of samples (different sample matrices and, unlike at least some prior art methods, even samples having low microorganism content and/or large volumes). Thus, at least some embodiments of the process of the invention can meet the above-cited urgent need for low-cost, simple processes for rapidly detecting pathogenic microorganisms under a variety of conditions.

    [0011] The process of the invention can be especially advantageous for concentrating the microorganisms in food samples (for example, particulate-containing food samples, especially those comprising relatively coarse particulates), as the concentration device used in the process can exhibit at least somewhat greater resistance to clogging than at least some filtration devices such as absolute micron filters. This can facilitate more complete sample processing (which is essential to eliminating false negative assays in food testing) and the handling of relatively large volume samples (for example, under field conditions).
    In another aspect, the invention also provides a concentration device as recited in claim 13 comprising a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising at least one concentration agent that comprises
    diatomaceous earth bearing, on at least a portion of its surface, a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof. Disclosed herein is a diagnostic kit for use in carrying out the concentration process, the kit comprising (a) at least one said concentration device as defined herein; and (b) at least one testing container or testing reagent for use in carrying out the above-described concentration process.
    Further disclosed herein is a process for preparing a
    concentration device comprising (a) providing a mixture comprising (1) at least one particulate, sinterable polymer (preferably, in the form of a powder) and (2) at least one particulate concentration agent that comprises diatomaceous earth bearing, on at least a portion of its surface, a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof; and (b) heating the mixture to a temperature sufficient to sinter the polymer, so as to form a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising the particulate concentration agent. Further advantageous embodiments are recited in the dependent claims.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWING



    [0012] These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawing, wherein:

    Figure 1 shows, in side sectional view, an apparatus that was used in preparing concentration agents for use in carrying out the embodiments of the process of the invention described in the examples section below.

    Figure 2 shows, in perspective view, the apparatus of Figure 1.



    [0013] These figures, which are idealized, are not drawn to scale and are intended to be merely illustrative and nonlimiting.

    DETAILED DESCRIPTION



    [0014] In the following detailed description, various sets of numerical ranges (for example, of the number of carbon atoms in a particular moiety, of the amount of a particular component, or the like) are described, and, within each set, any lower limit of a range can be paired with any upper limit of a range.

    Definitions



    [0015] As used in this patent application:

    "concentration agent" means a composition for concentrating microorganisms;

    "detection" means the identification of at least a component of a microorganism, which thereby determines that the microorganism is present;

    "genetic detection" means the identification of a component of genetic material such as DNA or RNA that is derived from a target microorganism;

    "immunologic detection" means the identification of an antigenic material such as a protein or a proteoglycan that is derived from a target microorganism;

    "microorganism" means any cell or particle having genetic material suitable for analysis or detection (including, for example, bacteria, yeasts, viruses, and bacterial endospores);

    "microorganism strain" means a particular type of microorganism that is distinguishable through a detection method (for example, microorganisms of different genera, of different species within a genera, or of different isolates within a species);

    "sample" means a substance or material that is collected (for example, to be analyzed);

    "sample matrix" means the components of a sample other than microorganisms;

    "sinter" (in reference to a mass of polymer particles) means to cause inter-particle binding or adhesion of at least some of the polymer particles through application of heat, without causing complete particle melting (for example, by heating the mass of polymer particles to a temperature between the glass transition temperature and the melting point of the polymer to effect particle softening);

    "sinterable" (in reference to a polymer) means a polymer that can be sintered;

    "sintered" (in reference to a matrix) means formed by sintering;

    "target microorganism" means any microorganism that is desired to be detected;

    "through pore" (in reference to a porous matrix) means a pore that comprises a passageway or channel (with separate inlet and outlet) through the matrix; and "tortuous path matrix" means a porous matrix having at least one tortuous through pore.


    Concentration Agent



    [0016] Concentration agents suitable for use in carrying out the process of the invention include those that comprise diatomaceous earth bearing, on at least a portion of its surface, a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof (preferably, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof). Concentration or capture using such concentration agents is generally not specific to any particular strain, species, or type of microorganism and therefore provides for the concentration of a general population of microorganisms in a sample. Specific strains of microorganisms can then be detected from among the captured microorganism population using any known detection method with strain-specific probes. Thus, the concentration agents can be used for the detection of microbial contaminants or pathogens (particularly food-borne pathogens such as bacteria) in clinical, food, environmental, or other samples.

    [0017] In carrying out the process of the invention, the concentration agents can be used in essentially any particulate form (preferably, a relatively dry or volatiles-free form) that is amenable to blending with particulate polymer to form the concentration device used in the process. For example, the concentration agents can be used in powder form or can be applied to a particulate support such as beads or the like. Preferably, the concentration agents are used in the form of a powder.

    [0018] When dispersed or suspended in water systems, inorganic materials exhibit surface charges that are characteristic of the material and the pH of the water system. The potential across the material-water interface is called the "zeta potential," which can be calculated from electrophoretic mobilities (that is, from the rates at which the particles of material travel between charged electrodes placed in the water system). At least some of the concentration agents used in carrying out the process of the invention have zeta potentials that are at least somewhat more positive than that of untreated diatomaceous earth, and the concentration agents can be surprisingly significantly more effective than untreated diatomaceous earth in concentrating microorganisms such as bacteria, the surfaces of which generally tend to be negatively charged. The concentration agents have a negative zeta potential at a pH of about 7 (more preferably, a zeta potential in the range of about -5 millivolts to about -20 millivolts at a pH of about 7; even more preferably, a zeta potential in the range of about -8 millivolts to about -19 millivolts at a pH of about 7; most preferably, a zeta potential in the range of about -10 millivolts to about -18 millivolts at a pH of about 7).

    [0019] Thus, it has been discovered that concentration agents comprising certain types of surface-treated or surface-modified diatomaceous earth (namely, bearing a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof) can be surprisingly more effective than untreated diatomaceous earth in concentrating microorganisms. The surface treatment preferably further comprises a metal oxide selected from ferric oxide, zinc oxide, aluminum oxide, and the like, and combinations thereof (more preferably, ferric oxide). Although noble metals such as gold have been known to exhibit antimicrobial characteristics, the gold-containing concentration agents used in the process of the invention surprisingly can be effective not only in concentrating the microorganisms but also in leaving them viable for purposes of detection or assay.

    [0020] Useful surface modifiers include fine-nanoscale gold; fine-nanoscale platinum; fine-nanoscale gold in combination with at least one metal oxide (preferably, titanium dioxide, ferric oxide, or a combination thereof); titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide in combination with at least one other (that is, other than titanium dioxide) metal oxide; ferric oxide; ferric oxide in combination with at least one other (that is, other than ferric oxide) metal oxide; and the like; and combinations thereof. Preferred surface modifiers include fine-nanoscale gold; fine-nanoscale platinum; fine-nanoscale gold in combination with at least ferric oxide or titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide in combination with at least ferric oxide; ferric oxide; and combinations thereof.

    [0021] More preferred surface modifiers include fine-nanoscale gold; fine-nanoscale platinum; fine-nanoscale gold in combination with ferric oxide or titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide in combination with ferric oxide; and combinations thereof (even more preferably, fine-nanoscale gold; fine-nanoscale gold in combination with ferric oxide or titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide in combination with ferric oxide; and combinations thereof). Fine-nanoscale gold, fine-nanoscale gold in combination with ferric oxide or titanium dioxide, and combinations thereof are most preferred.

    Gold and/or Platinum



    [0022] The concentration agents comprising fine-nanoscale gold or platinum can be prepared by depositing gold or platinum on diatomaceous earth by physical vapor deposition (optionally, by physical vapor deposition in an oxidizing atmosphere). As used herein, the term "fine-nanoscale gold or platinum" refers to gold or platinum bodies (for example, particles or atom clusters) having all dimensions less than or equal to 5 nanometers (nm) in size. Preferably, at least a portion of the deposited gold or platinum has all dimensions (for example, particle diameter or atom cluster diameter) in the range of up to (less than or equal to) about 10 nm in average size (more preferably, up to about 5 nm; even more preferably, up to about 3 nm).

    [0023] In most preferred embodiments, at least a portion of the gold is ultra-nanoscale (that is, having at least two dimensions less than 0.5 nm in size and all dimensions less than 1.5 nm in size). The size of individual gold or platinum nanoparticles can be determined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis, as is well known in the art.

    [0024] The amount of gold or platinum provided on the diatomaceous earth can vary over a wide range. Since gold and platinum are expensive, it is desirable not to use more than is reasonably needed to achieve a desired degree of concentration activity. Additionally, because nanoscale gold or platinum can be highly mobile when deposited using PVD, activity can be compromised if too much gold or platinum is used, due to coalescence of at least some of the gold or platinum into large bodies.

    [0025] For these reasons, the weight loading of gold or platinum on the diatomaceous earth preferably is in the range of about 0.005 (more preferably, 0.05) to about 10 weight percent, more preferably about 0.005 (even more preferably, 0.05) to about 5 weight percent, and even more preferably from about 0.005 (most preferably, 0.05) to about 2.5 weight percent, based upon the total weight of the diatomaceous earth and the gold or platinum.

    [0026] Gold and platinum can be deposited by PVD techniques (for example, by sputtering) to form concentration-active, fine-nanoscale particles or atom clusters on a support surface. It is believed that the metal is deposited mainly in elemental form, although other oxidation states may be present.

    [0027] In addition to gold and/or platinum, one or more other metals can also be provided on the same diatomaceous earth supports and/or on other supports intermixed with the gold- and/or platinum-containing supports. Examples of such other metals include silver, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, osmium, copper, iridium, and the like, and combinations thereof. If used, these other metals can be co-deposited on a support from a target source that is the same or different from the gold or platinum source target that is used. Alternatively, such metals can be provided on a support either before or after the gold and/or platinum is deposited. Metals requiring a thermal treatment for activation advantageously can be applied to a support and heat treated before the gold and/or platinum is deposited.

    [0028] Physical vapor deposition refers to the physical transfer of metal from a metal-containing source or target to a support medium. Physical vapor deposition can be viewed as involving atom-by-atom deposition, although in actual practice the metal can be transferred as extremely fine bodies constituting more than one atom per body. The deposited metal can interact with the surface of the support medium physically, chemically, ionically, and/or otherwise.

    [0029] Physical vapor deposition preferably occurs under temperature and vacuum conditions in which the metal is quite mobile and will tend to migrate on the surface of the support medium until immobilized in some fashion (for example, by adhering to a site on or very near the support surface). Sites of adhering can include defects such as surface vacancies, structural discontinuities such as steps and dislocations, and interfacial boundaries between phases or crystals or other metal species such as small metal clusters. Metal deposited by PVD apparently is sufficiently immobilized that the metal can retain a high level of activity. In contrast, conventional methodologies often allow the metal to coalesce into such large bodies that activity can be compromised or even lost.

    [0030] Physical vapor deposition can be carried out in various different ways. Representative approaches include sputter deposition (preferred), evaporation, and cathodic arc deposition. Any of these or other PVD approaches can be used in preparing the concentration agents used in carrying out the process of the invention, although the nature of the PVD technique can impact the resulting activity.

    [0031] For example, the energy of the physical vapor deposition technique can impact the mobility of the deposited metal and hence its tendency to coalesce. Higher energy tends to correspond to an increased tendency of the metal to coalesce. Increased coalescence, in turn, tends to reduce activity. Generally, the energy of the depositing species is lowest for evaporation, higher for sputter deposition (which can include some ion content in which a small fraction of the impinging metal species are ionized), and highest for cathodic arc deposition (which can include several tens of percents of ion content). Accordingly, if a particular PVD technique yields deposited metal that is more mobile than desired, it can be useful to use a PVD technique of lesser energy instead.

    [0032] Physical vapor deposition preferably is performed while the support medium to be treated is being well-mixed (for example, tumbled, fluidized, milled, or the like) to ensure adequate treatment of support surfaces. Methods of tumbling particles for deposition by PVD are described in U.S. Patent No. 4,618,525 (Chamberlain et al.), the descriptions of which are incorporated herein by reference.

    [0033] When carrying out PVD on fine particles or fine particle agglomerates (for example, less than about 10 micrometers in average diameter), the support medium is preferably both mixed and comminuted (for example, ground or milled to some degree) during at least a portion of the PVD process. This can assist in maintaining the separation and free flow of the particles or agglomerates during the deposition. In the case of fine particles or fine particle agglomerates, it can be advantageous for the mixing of the particles to be as vigorous and rapid as possible while still retaining controlled deposition of the metal.

    [0034] PVD can be carried out by using any of the types of apparatus that are now used or hereafter developed for this purpose. A preferred apparatus 10 is shown, however, in Figs. 1 and 2. The apparatus 10 includes a housing 12 defining a vacuum chamber 14 containing a particle agitator 16. The housing 12, which can be made from an aluminum alloy if desired, is a vertically oriented hollow cylinder (for example, 45 cm high and 50 cm in diameter). The base 18 contains a port 20 for a high vacuum gate valve 22 followed by a six-inch diffusion pump 24 as well as a support 26 for the particle agitator 16. The vacuum chamber 14 is capable of being evacuated to background pressures in the range of 10-6 Torr.

    [0035] The top of the housing 12 includes a demountable, rubber L-gasket-sealed plate 28 that is fitted with an external mount, three-inch diameter direct current (dc) magnetron sputter deposition source 30 (a US Gun II, US, INC., San Jose, CA). Into the sputter deposition source 30 is fastened a gold or platinum sputter target 32 (for example, 7.6 cm (3.0 inch) diameter x 0.48 cm (3/16 inch) thick). The sputter deposition source 30 is powered by an MDX-10 Magnetron Drive (Advanced Energy Industries, Inc, Fort Collins, CO) fitted with a Sparc-le 20 arc suppression system (Advanced Energy Industries, Inc, Fort Collins, CO).

    [0036] The particle agitator 16 is a hollow cylinder (for example, 12 cm long x 9.5 cm diameter horizontal) with a rectangular opening 34 (for example, 6.5 cm x 7.5 cm). The opening 34 is positioned about 7 cm directly below the surface 36 of the sputter target 32, so that sputtered metal atoms can enter the agitator volume 38. The agitator 16 is fitted with a shaft 40 aligned with its axis. The shaft 40 has a rectangular cross section (for example, 1 cm x 1 cm) to which are bolted four rectangular blades 42 which form an agitation mechanism or paddle wheel for the support particles being tumbled. The blades 42 each contain two holes 44 (for example, 2 cm diameter) to promote communication between the particle volumes contained in each of the four quadrants formed by the blades 42 and particle agitator 16. The dimensions of the blades 42 are selected to give side and end gap distances of either 2.7 mm or 1.7 mm with the agitator walls 48.

    [0037] Physical vapor deposition can be carried out at essentially any desired temperature(s) over a very wide range. However, the deposited metal can be more active (perhaps due to more defects and/or lower mobility and coalescence) if the metal is deposited at relatively low temperatures (for example, at a temperature below about 150°C, preferably below about 50°C, more preferably at ambient temperature (for example, about 20°C to about 27°C) or less). Operating under ambient conditions can be generally preferred as being effective and economical, as no heating or chilling is required during the deposition.

    [0038] The physical vapor deposition can be carried out in an inert sputtering gas atmosphere (for example, in argon, helium, xenon, radon, or a mixture of two or more thereof (preferably, argon)), and, optionally, the physical vapor deposition can be carried out in an oxidizing atmosphere. The oxidizing atmosphere preferably comprises at least one oxygen-containing gas (more preferably, an oxygen-containing gas selected from oxygen, water, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, and combinations thereof; even more preferably, an oxygen-containing gas selected from oxygen, water, and combinations thereof; most preferably, oxygen). The oxidizing atmosphere further comprises an inert sputtering gas such as argon, helium, xenon, radon, or a mixture of two or more thereof (preferably, argon). The total gas pressure (all gases) in the vacuum chamber during the PVD process can be from about 1 mTorr to about 25 mTorr (preferably, from about 5 mTorr to about 15 mTorr). The oxidizing atmosphere can comprise from about 0.05 percent to about 60 percent by weight oxygen-containing gas (preferably, from about 0.1 percent to about 50 percent by weight; more preferably, from about 0.5 percent to about 25 percent by weight), based upon the total weight of all gases in the vacuum chamber.

    [0039] The diatomaceous earth support medium can optionally be calcined prior to metal deposition, although this can increase its crystalline silica content. Since gold and platinum are active right away when deposited via PVD, there is generally no need for heat treatment after metal deposition, unlike deposition by some other methodologies. Such heat treating or calcining can be carried out if desired, however, to enhance activity.

    [0040] In general, thermal treatment can involve heating the support at a temperature in the range of about 125°C to about 1000°C for a time period in the range of about 1 second to about 40 hours, preferably about 1 minute to about 6 hours, in any suitable atmosphere such as air, an inert atmosphere such as nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon, a reducing atmosphere such as hydrogen, and the like. The particular thermal conditions to be used can depend upon various factors including the nature of the support.

    [0041] Generally, thermal treatment can be carried out below a temperature at which the constituents of the support would be decomposed, degraded, or otherwise unduly thermally damaged. Depending upon factors such as the nature of the support, the amount of metal, and the like, activity can be compromised to some degree if the system is thermally treated at too high a temperature.

    Titanium Dioxide, Ferric Oxide, and/or Other Metal Oxides



    [0042] The concentration agents comprising metal oxide can be prepared by depositing metal oxide on diatomaceous earth by hydrolysis of a hydrolyzable metal oxide precursor compound. Suitable metal oxide precursor compounds include metal complexes and metal salts that can be hydrolyzed to form metal oxides. Useful metal complexes include those comprising alkoxide ligands, hydrogen peroxide as a ligand, carboxylate-functional ligands, and the like, and combinations thereof, Useful metal salts include metal sulfates, nitrates, halides, carbonates, oxalates, hydroxides, and the like, and combinations thereof.

    [0043] When using metal salts or metal complexes of hydrogen peroxide or carboxylate-functional ligands, hydrolysis can be induced by either chemical or thermal means. In chemically-induced hydrolysis, the metal salt can be introduced in the form of a solution into a dispersion of the diatomaceous earth, and the pH of the resulting combination can be raised by the addition of a base solution until the metal salt precipitates as a hydroxide complex of the metal on the diatomaceous earth. Suitable bases include alkali metal and alkaline earth metal hydroxides and carbonates, ammonium and alkyl-ammonium hydroxides and carbonates, and the like, and combinations thereof. The metal salt solution and the base solution can generally be about 0.1 to about 2 M in concentration.

    [0044] Preferably, the addition of the metal salt to the diatomaceous earth is carried out with stirring (preferably, rapid stirring) of the diatomaceous earth dispersion. The metal salt solution and the base solution can be introduced to the diatomaceous earth dispersion separately (in either order) or simultaneously, so as to effect a preferably substantially uniform reaction of the resulting metal hydroxide complex with the surface of the diatomaceous earth. The reaction mixture can optionally be heated during the reaction to accelerate the speed of the reaction. In general, the amount of base added can equal the number of moles of the metal times the number of non-oxo and non-hydroxo counterions on the metal salt or metal complex.

    [0045] Alternatively, when using salts of titanium or iron, the metal salt can be thermally induced to hydrolyze to form the hydroxide complex of the metal and to interact with the surface of the diatomaceous earth. In this case, the metal salt solution can generally be added to a dispersion of the diatomaceous earth (preferably, a stirred dispersion) that has been heated to a sufficiently high temperature (for example, greater than about 50°C) to promote the hydrolysis of the metal salt. Preferably, the temperature is between about 75°C and 100°C, although higher temperatures can be used if the reaction is carried out in an autoclave apparatus.

    [0046] When using metal alkoxide complexes, the metal complex can be induced to hydrolyze to form a hydroxide complex of the metal by partial hydrolysis of the metal alkoxide in an alcohol solution. Hydrolysis of the metal alkoxide solution in the presence of diatomaceous earth can result in metal hydroxide species being deposited on the surface of the diatomaceous earth.

    [0047] Alternatively, the metal alkoxide can be hydrolyzed and deposited onto the surface of the diatomaceous earth by reacting the metal alkoxide in the gas phase with water, in the presence of the diatomaceous earth. In this case, the diatomaceous earth can be agitated during the deposition in either, for example, a fluidized bed reactor or a rotating drum reactor.

    [0048] After the above-described hydrolysis of the metal oxide precursor compound in the presence of the diatomaceous earth, the resulting surface-treated diatomaceous earth can be separated by settling or by filtration or by other known techniques. The separated product can be purified by washing with water and can then be dried (for example, at 50°C to 150°C).

    [0049] Although the surface-treated diatomaceous earth generally can be functional after drying, it can optionally be calcined to remove volatile by-products by heating in air to about 250°C to 650°C generally without loss of function. This calcining step can be preferred when metal alkoxides are utilized as the metal oxide precursor compounds.

    [0050] In general, with metal oxide precursor compounds of iron, the resulting surface treatments comprise nanoparticulate iron oxide. When the weight ratio of iron oxide to diatomaceous earth is about 0.08, X-ray diffraction (XRD) does not show the presence of a well-defined iron oxide material. Rather, additional X-ray reflections are observed at 3.80, 3.68, and 2.94 Å. TEM examination of this material shows the surface of the diatomaceous earth to be relatively uniformly coated with globular nanoparticulate iron oxide material. The crystallite size of the iron oxide material is less than about 20 nm, with most of the crystals being less than about 10 nm in diameter. The packing of these globular crystals on the surface of the diatomaceous earth is dense in appearance, and the surface of the diatomaceous earth appears to be roughened by the presence of these crystals.

    [0051] In general, with metal oxide precursor compounds of titanium, the resulting surface treatments comprise nanoparticulate titania. When depositing titanium dioxide onto diatomaceous earth, XRD of the resulting product after calcination to about 350°C can show the presence of small crystals of anatase titania. With relatively lower titanium/diatomaceous earth ratios or in cases where mixtures of titanium and iron oxide precursors are used, no evidence of anatase is generally observed by X-ray analysis.

    [0052] Since titania is well-known as a potent photo-oxidation catalyst, the titania-modified diatomaceous earth concentration agents can be used to concentrate microorganisms for analysis and then optionally also be used as photoactivatable agents for killing residual microorganisms and removing unwanted organic impurities after use. Thus, the titania-modified diatomaceous earth can both isolate biomaterials for analysis and then be photochemically cleaned for re-use. These materials can also be used in filtration applications where microorganism removal as well as antimicrobial effects can be desired.

    Diatomaceous Earth



    [0053] Diatomaceous earth (or kieselguhr) is a natural siliceous material produced from the remnants of diatoms, a class of ocean-dwelling microorganisms. Thus, it can be obtained from natural sources and is also commercially available (for example, from Alfa Aesar, A Johnson Matthey Company, Ward Hill, MA). Diatomaceous earth particles generally comprise small, open networks of silica in the form of symmetrical cubes, cylinders, spheres, plates, rectangular boxes, and the like. The pore structures in these particles can generally be remarkably uniform.

    [0054] Diatomaceous earth can be used in carrying out the process of the invention as the raw, mined material or as purified and optionally milled particles. Preferably, the diatomaceous earth is in the form of milled particles with sizes in the range of about 1 micrometer to about 50 micrometers in diameter (more preferably, about 3 micrometers to about 10 micrometers).

    [0055] The diatomaceous earth can optionally be heat treated prior to use to remove any vestiges of organic residues. If a heat treatment is used, it can be preferable that the heat treatment be at 500°C or lower, as higher temperatures can produce undesirably high levels of crystalline silica.

    Concentration Device



    [0056] Concentration devices suitable for use in carrying out the process of the invention include those that comprise a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising at least one of the above-described concentration agents. Such concentration devices can be prepared, for example, by mixing or blending at least one particulate, sinterable polymer (preferably, in the form of a powder) and at least one particulate concentration agent, and then heating the resulting mixture to a temperature sufficient to sinter the polymer. This process, as well as other known or hereafter-developed sintering processes, can be used to provide, upon cooling, a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising the particulate concentration agent.

    [0057] For example, sintering can cause the polymer particles to soften at their points of contact, and subsequent cooling can then cause fusion of the particles. A solidified or self-supporting, porous polymer body comprising particulate concentration agent can result (for example, with the concentration agent being embedded in or on the surface of the polymer body). This can provide a concentration device having a relatively complex pore structure (preferably, a concentration device comprising a tortuous path matrix) and relatively good mechanical strength.

    [0058] Polymers suitable for use in preparing the concentration device include sinterable polymers and combinations thereof. Preferred sinterable polymers include thermoplastic polymers and combinations thereof. More preferably, the thermoplastic polymers can be selected so as to have relatively high viscosities and relatively low melt flow rates. This can facilitate particle shape retention during the sintering process.

    [0059] Useful sinterable polymers include polyolefins (including olefin homopolymers and copolymers, as well as copolymers of olefins and other vinyl monomers), polysulfones, polyethersulfones, polyphenylene sulfide, and the like, and combinations thereof. Representative examples of useful polymers include ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) polymers, ethylene methyl acrylate (EMA) polymers, polyethylenes (including, for example, low density polyethylene (LDPE), linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), high density polyethylene (HDPE), and ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)), polypropylenes, ethylene-propylene rubbers, ethylene-propylene-diene rubbers, polystyrene, poly(1-butene), poly(2-butene), poly(1-pentene), poly(2-pentene), poly(3-methyl-1-pentene), poly(4-methyl-1-pentene), 1,2-poly-],3-butadiene, 1,4-poly-1,3-butadiene, polyisoprene, polychloroprene, poly(vinyl acetate), poly(vinylidene chloride), poly(vinylidene fluoride), poly(tetrafluoroethylene), and the like, and combinations thereof.

    [0060] Preferred polymers include olefin homopolymers and copolymers (especially, polyethylenes, polypropylenes, ethylene vinyl acetate polymers, and combinations thereof). More preferred polymers include olefin homopolymers and combinations thereof (even more preferably, polyethylenes and combinations thereof; most preferably, ultra-high molecular weight polyethylenes (UHMWPE) and combinations thereof). Useful ultra-high molecular weight polyethylenes include those having a molecular weight of at least about 750,000 (preferably, at least about 1,000,000; more preferably, at least about 2,000,000; most preferably, at least about 3,000,000).

    [0061] A wide range of polymer particle sizes can be utilized, depending upon the pore (for example, hole, depression, or, preferably, channel) sizes desired in the sintered porous polymer matrix. Finer particles can provide finer pore sizes in the sintered matrix. Generally, the polymer particles can be microparticles (for example, ranging in size or diameter from about 1 micrometer to about 800 micrometers; preferably, from about 5 micrometers to about 300 micrometers; more preferably, from about 5 micrometers to about 200 micrometers; most preferably, from about 10 micrometers to about 100 or 200 micrometers), so as to provide pore sizes on the order of micrometers or less. Varying average (mean) and/or median particle sizes can be utilized (for example, average particle sizes of about 30 micrometers to about 70 micrometers can be useful.) If desired, the porosity of the sintered matrix can also be varied or controlled by using blends of higher and lower melt flow rate polymers.

    [0062] The polymer particles and the particulate concentration agent (and any optional additives, such as wetting agents or surfactants) can be combined and mechanically blended (for example, using commercial mixing equipment) to form a mixture (preferably, a homogeneous mixture). Generally, the particulate concentration agent can be present in the mixture at a concentration of up to about 90 weight percent (preferably, about 5 to about 85 weight percent; more preferably, about 10 to about 80 weight percent; most preferably, about 15 to about 75 weight percent), based upon the total weight of all particles in the mixture. Conventional additives (for example, wetting agents, surfactants, or the like) can be included in the mixture in small amounts (for example, up to about 5 weight percent), if desired.

    [0063] The resulting mixture can be placed in a mold or other suitable container or substrate. Useful molds can be made of carbon steel, stainless steel, brass, aluminum, or the like, and can have a single cavity or multiple cavities. The cavities can be of essentially any desired shape, provided that their sintered contents can be removed from the mold after processing is completed. Preferably, mold filling can be assisted by using commercial powder handling and/or vibratory equipment.

    [0064] Thermal processing can be carried out by introducing heat to the mold (for example, through electrical resistance heating, electrical induction heating, or steam heating). The mold can be heated to a temperature sufficient to sinter the polymer (for example, by heating to a temperature slightly below the melting point of the polymer). Sintering methods are known and can be selected according to the nature and/or form of the polymer(s) utilized. Optionally, pressure can be applied to the mixture during the heating process. After thermal processing, the mold can be allowed to cool to ambient temperature (for example, a temperature of about 23°C) naturally or through use of essentially any convenient cooling method or device.

    [0065] A preferred concentration device can be prepared by using the polymer particles and processing methods described in U.S. Patent Nos. 7,112,272, 7,112,280, and 7,169,304 (Hughes et al.), the descriptions of which particles and methods are incorporated herein by reference. Two different types of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) particles can be blended together, one being "popcorn-shaped" (having surface convolutions) and the other being substantially spherical. Preferred "popcorn-shaped" and spherical UHMWPEs are available from Ticona (a division of Celanese, headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany) as PMX CF-1 (having a bulk density of 0.25-0.30 g/cubic centimeter and an average diameter of about 30 to 40 micrometers, with a range from about 10 micrometers to about 100 micrometers) and PMX CF-2 (having a bulk density of 0.40-0.48 g/cubic centimeter and an average diameter of about 55 to 65 micrometers, with a range from about 10 micrometers to about 180 micrometers), respectively. UHMWPEs from other manufacturers having comparable morphologies, bulk densities, and particle sizes and having molecular weights in the range of about 750,000 to about 3,000,000 can also be utilized. The two types of UHMWPE particles can be selected to be of the same or different molecular weight(s) (preferably, both have the same molecular weight within the stated range; more preferably, both have molecular weights of about 3,000,000).

    [0066] The two types of UHMWPE particles can be combined in varying relative amounts (for example, equal amounts) and then further combined with concentration agent in the ratios described above. Either type of UHMWPE can be used in lesser amount than the other, or can even be omitted from the mixture, depending upon the desired characteristics of the concentration device.

    [0067] The selected particles can be blended together to form a mixture that is preferably homogeneous. For example, a ribbon blender or the like can be used. The resulting mixture can then be placed in a mold cavity while preferably being simultaneously vibrated using essentially any standard mechanical vibrator. At the end of the filling and vibration cycle, the mold can be heated to a temperature that is sufficient to sinter the polymer(s) (generally, a temperature in the range of about 225°F to about 375°F or higher, depending upon the molecular weight(s) of the polymer(s)).
    Upon cooling, a self-supporting, sintered porous polymer matrix can be obtained. The matrix can exhibit a complex internal structure comprising interconnected, multidirectional through pores of varying diameters and can thus comprise a preferred tortuous path matrix for use as a concentration device in the concentration process of the invention. If desired, the concentration device can further comprise one or more other components such as, for example, one or more pre-filters (for example, to remove relatively large food particles from a sample prior to passage of the sample through the porous matrix), a manifold for applying a pressure differential across the device (for example, to aid in passing a sample through the porous matrix), and/or an external housing (for example, a disposable cartridge to contain and/or protect the porous matrix).

    Sample



    [0068] The process of the invention can be applied to a variety of different types of samples, including, but not limited to, medical, environmental, food, feed, clinical, and laboratory samples, and combinations thereof. Medical or veterinary samples can include, for example, cells, tissues, or fluids from a biological source (for example, a human or an animal) that are to be assayed for clinical diagnosis. Environmental samples can be, for example, from a medical or veterinary facility, an industrial facility, soil, a water source, a food preparation area (food contact and non-contact areas), a laboratory, or an area that has been potentially subjected to bioterrorism. Food processing, handling, and preparation area samples are preferred, as these are often of particular concern in regard to food supply contamination by bacterial pathogens.

    [0069] Samples obtained in the form of a liquid or in the form of a dispersion or suspension of solid in liquid can be used directly, or can be concentrated (for example, by centrifugation) or diluted (for example, by the addition of a buffer (pH-controlled) solution). Samples in the form of a solid or a semi-solid can be used directly or can be extracted, if desired, by a method such as, for example, washing or rinsing with, or suspending or dispersing in, a fluid medium (for example, a buffer solution). Samples can be taken from surfaces (for example, by swabbing or rinsing). Preferably, the sample is a fluid (for example, a liquid, a gas, or a dispersion or suspension of solid or liquid in liquid or gas).

    [0070] Examples of samples that can be used in carrying out the process of the invention include foods (for example, fresh produce or ready-to-eat lunch or "deli" meats), beverages (for example, juices or carbonated beverages), potable water, and biological fluids (for example, whole blood or a component thereof such as plasma, a platelet-enriched blood fraction, a platelet concentrate, or packed red blood cells; cell preparations (for example, dispersed tissue, bone marrow aspirates, or vertebral body bone marrow); cell suspensions; urine, saliva, and other body fluids; bone marrow; lung fluid; cerebral fluid; wound exudate; wound biopsy samples; ocular fluid; spinal fluid; and the like), as well as lysed preparations, such as cell lysates, which can be formed using known procedures such as the use of lysing buffers, and the like. Preferred samples include foods, beverages, potable water, biological fluids, and combinations thereof (with foods, beverages, potable water, and combinations thereof being more preferred).

    [0071] Sample volume can vary, depending upon the particular application. For example, when the process of the invention is used for a diagnostic or research application, the volume of the sample can typically be in the microliter range (for example, 10 microliters or greater). When the process is used for a food pathogen testing assay or for potable water safety testing, the volume of the sample can typically be in the milliliter to liter range (for example, 100 milliliters to 3 liters). In an industrial application, such as bioprocessing or pharmaceutical formulation, the volume can be tens of thousands of liters.

    [0072] The process of the invention can isolate microorganisms from a sample in a concentrated state and can also allow the isolation of microorganisms from sample matrix components that can inhibit detection procedures that are to be used. In all of these cases, the process of the invention can be used in addition to, or in replacement of, other methods of microorganism concentration. Thus, optionally, cultures can be grown from samples either before or after carrying out the process of the invention, if additional concentration is desired. Such cultural enrichment can be general or primary (so as to enrich the concentrations of most or essentially all microorganisms) or can be specific or selective (so as to enrich the concentration(s) of one or more selected microorganisms only).

    Contacting



    [0073] The process of the invention can be carried out by any of various known or hereafter-developed methods of providing contact between two materials. For example, the concentration device can be added to the sample, or the sample can be added to the concentration device. The concentration device can be immersed in a sample, a sample can be poured onto the concentration device, a sample can be poured into a tube or well containing the concentration device, or, preferably, a sample can be passed over or through (preferably, through) the concentration device (or vice versa). Preferably, the contacting is carried out in a manner such that the sample passes through at least one pore of the sintered porous polymer matrix (preferably, through at least one through pore).

    [0074] The concentration device and the sample can be combined (using any order of addition) in any of a variety of containers or holders (optionally, a capped, closed, or sealed container; preferably, a column, a syringe barrel, or another holder designed to contain the device with essentially no sample leakage). Suitable containers for use in carrying out the process of the invention will be determined by the particular sample and can vary widely in size and nature. For example, the container can be small, such as a 10 microliter container (for example, a test tube or syringe) or larger, such as a 100 milliliter to 3 liter container (for example, an Erlenmeyer flask or an annular cylindrical container).

    [0075] The container, the concentration device, and any other apparatus or additives that contact the sample directly can be sterilized (for example, by controlled heat, ethylene oxide gas, or radiation) prior to use, in order to reduce or prevent any contamination of the sample that might cause detection errors. The amount of concentration agent in the concentration device that is sufficient to capture or concentrate the microorganisms of a particular sample for successful detection will vary (depending upon, for example, the nature and form of the concentration agent and device and the volume of the sample) and can be readily determined by one skilled in the art.

    [0076] Contacting can be carried out for a desired period (for example, for sample volumes of about 100 milliliters or less, up to about 60 minutes of contacting can be useful; preferably, about 15 seconds to about 10 minutes or longer; more preferably, about 15 seconds to about 5 minutes; most preferably, about 15 seconds to about 2 minutes). Contact can be enhanced by mixing (for example, by stirring, by shaking, or by application of a pressure differential across the device to facilitate passage of a sample through its porous matrix) and/or by incubation (for example, at ambient temperature), which are optional but can be preferred, in order to increase microorganism contact with the concentration device.

    [0077] Preferably, contacting can be effected by passing a sample at least once (preferably, only once) through the concentration device (for example, by pumping). Essentially any type of pump (for example, a peristaltic pump) or other equipment for establishing a pressure differential across the device (for example, a syringe or plunger) can be utilized. Sample flow rates through the device of up to about 100 milliliters per minute or more can be effective. Preferably, flow rates of about 10-20 milliliters per minute can be utilized.

    [0078] A preferred contacting method includes such passing of a sample through the concentration device (for example, by pumping) and then incubating (for example, for about 3 hours to about 24 hours; preferably, about 4 hours to about 20 hours) a microorganism-containing sample (preferably, a fluid) with the concentration device (for example, in one of the above-described containers). If desired, one or more additives (for example, lysis reagents, bioluminescence assay reagents, nucleic acid capture reagents (for example, magnetic beads), microbial growth media, buffers (for example, to moisten a solid sample), microbial staining reagents, washing buffers (for example, to wash away unbound material), elution agents (for example, serum albumin), surfactants (for example, Triton™ X-100 nonionic surfactant available from Union Carbide Chemicals and Plastics, Houston, TX), mechanical abrasion/elution agents (for example, glass beads), and the like) can be included in the combination of concentration device and sample during contacting.

    [0079] The process of the invention can optionally further comprise separating the resulting microorganism-bound concentration device and the sample. Separation can be carried out by numerous methods that are well-known in the art (for example, by pumping, decanting, or siphoning a fluid sample, so as to leave the microorganism-bound concentration device in the container or holder utilized in carrying out the process). It can also be possible to isolate or separate captured microorganisms (or one or more components thereof) from the concentration device after sample contacting (for example, by passing an elution agent or a lysis agent over or through the concentration device).

    [0080] The process of the invention can be carried out manually (for example, in a batchwise manner) or can be automated (for example, to enable continuous or semi-continuous processing).

    Detection



    [0081] A variety of microorganisms can be concentrated and, optionally but preferably, detected by using the process of the invention, including, for example, bacteria, fungi, yeasts, protozoans, viruses (including both non-enveloped and enveloped viruses), bacterial endospores (for example, Bacillus (including Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus cereus, and Bacillus subtilis) and Clostridium (including Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium difficile, and Clostridium perfringens)), and the like, and combinations thereof (preferably, bacteria, yeasts, viruses, bacterial endospores, fungi, and combinations thereof; more preferably, bacteria, yeasts, viruses, bacterial endospores, and combinations thereof; even more preferably, bacteria, viruses, bacterial endospores, and combinations thereof; most preferably, gram-negative bacteria, gram-positive bacteria, non-enveloped viruses (for example, norovirus, poliovirus, hepatitis A virus, rhinovirus, and combinations thereof), bacterial endospores, and combinations thereof). The process has utility in the detection of pathogens, which can be important for food safety or for medical, environmental, or anti-terrorism reasons. The process can be particularly useful in the detection of pathogenic bacteria (for example, both gram negative and gram positive bacteria), as well as various yeasts, molds, and mycoplasmas (and combinations of any of these).

    [0082] Genera of target microorganisms to be detected include, but are not limited to, Listeria, Escherichia, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, Helicobacter, Mycobacterium, Staphylococcus, Shigella, Enterococcus, Bacillus, Neisseria, Shigella, Streptococcus, Vibrio, Yersinia, Bordetella, Borrelia, Pseudomonas, Saccharomyces, Candida, and the like, and combinations thereof. Samples can contain a plurality of microorganism strains, and any one strain can be detected independently of any other strain. Specific microorganism strains that can be targets for detection include Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Vibrio cholerae, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio vulnificus, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Candida albicans, Staphylococcal enterotoxin ssp, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus anthracis, Bacillus atrophaeus, Bacillus subtilis, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinum, Clostridium difficile, Enterobacter sakazakii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and the like, and combinations thereof (preferably, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella enterica, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Bacillus atrophaeus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, human-infecting non-enveloped enteric viruses for which Escherichia coli bacteriophage is a surrogate, and combinations thereof).

    [0083] Microorganisms that have been captured or bound (for example, by adsorption or by sieving) by the concentration device can be detected by essentially any desired method that is currently known or hereafter developed. Such methods include, for example, culture-based methods (which can be preferred when time permits), microscopy (for example, using a transmitted light microscope or an epifluorescence microscope, which can be used for visualizing microorganisms tagged with fluorescent dyes) and other imaging methods, immunological detection methods, and genetic detection methods. The detection process following microorganism capture optionally can include washing to remove sample matrix components, slicing or otherwise breaking up the sintered porous polymer matrix of the concentration device, staining, or the like.

    [0084] Immunological detection is detection of an antigenic material derived from a target organism, which is commonly a biological molecule (for example, a protein or proteoglycan) acting as a marker on the surface of bacteria or viral particles. Detection of the antigenic material typically can be by an antibody, a polypeptide selected from a process such as phage display, or an aptamer from a screening process.

    [0085] Immunological detection methods are well-known and include, for example, immunoprecipitation and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Antibody binding can be detected in a variety of ways (for example, by labeling either a primary or a secondary antibody with a fluorescent dye, with a quantum dot, or with an enzyme that can produce chemiluminescence or a colored substrate, and using either a plate reader or a lateral flow device).

    [0086] Detection can also be carried out by genetic assay (for example, by nucleic acid hybridization or primer directed amplification), which is often a preferred method. The captured or bound microorganisms can be lysed to render their genetic material available for assay. Lysis methods are well-known and include, for example, treatments such as sonication, osmotic shock, high temperature treatment (for example, from about 50°C to about 100°C), and incubation with an enzyme such as lysozyme, glucolase, zymolose, lyticase, proteinase K, proteinase E, and viral enolysins.

    [0087] Many commonly-used genetic detection assays detect the nucleic acids of a specific microorganism, including the DNA and/or RNA. The stringency of conditions used in a genetic detection method correlates with the level of variation in nucleic acid sequence that is detected. Highly stringent conditions of salt concentration and temperature can limit the detection to the exact nucleic acid sequence of the target. Thus microorganism strains with small variations in a target nucleic acid sequence can be distinguished using a highly stringent genetic assay. Genetic detection can be based on nucleic acid hybridization where a single-stranded nucleic acid probe is hybridized to the denatured nucleic acids of the microorganism such that a double-stranded nucleic acid is produced, including the probe strand. One skilled in the art will be familiar with probe labels, such as radioactive, fluorescent, and chemiluminescent labels, for detecting the hybrid following gel electrophoresis, capillary electrophoresis, or other separation method.

    [0088] Particularly useful genetic detection methods are based on primer directed nucleic acid amplification. Primer directed nucleic acid amplification methods include, for example, thermal cycling methods (for example, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and ligase chain reaction (LCR)), as well as isothermal methods and strand displacement amplification (SDA) (and combinations thereof; preferably, PCR or RT-PCR). Methods for detection of the amplified product are not limited and include, for example, gel electrophoresis separation and ethidium bromide staining, as well as detection of an incorporated fluorescent label or radio label in the product. Methods that do not require a separation step prior to detection of the amplified product can also be used (for example, real-time PCR or homogeneous detection).

    [0089] Bioluminescence detection methods are well-known and include, for example, adensosine triphosphate (ATP) detection methods including those described in U.S. Patent No. 7,422,868 (Fan et al.), the descriptions of which are incorporated herein by reference. Other luminescence-based detection methods can also be utilized.

    [0090] Since the process of the invention is non-strain specific, it provides a general capture system that allows for multiple microorganism strains to be targeted for assay in the same sample. For example, in assaying for contamination of food samples, it can be desired to test for Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella all in the same sample. A single capture step can then be followed by, for example, PCR or RT-PCR assays using specific primers to amplify different nucleic acid sequences from each of these microorganism strains. Thus, the need for separate sample handling and preparation procedures for each strain can be avoided.

    Diagnostic Kit



    [0091] A diagnostic kit for use in carrying out the concentration process of the invention comprises (a) at least one above-described concentration device; and (b) at least one testing container or testing reagent (preferably, a sterile testing container or testing reagent) for use in carrying out the concentration process of the invention. Preferably, the diagnostic kit further comprises instructions for carrying out the process.

    [0092] Useful testing containers or holders include those described above and can be used, for example, for contacting, for incubation, for collection of eluate, or for other desired process steps. Useful testing reagents include microorganism culture or growth media, lysis agents, elution agents, buffers, luminescence detection assay components (for example, luminometer, lysis reagents, luciferase enzyme, enzyme substrate, reaction buffers, and the like), genetic detection assay components, and the like, and combinations thereof. A preferred lysis agent is a lytic enzyme or chemical supplied in a buffer, and preferred genetic detection assay components include one or more primers specific for a target microorganism. The kit can optionally further comprise sterile forceps or the like.

    EXAMPLES



    [0093] Objects and advantages of this invention are further illustrated by the following examples, but the particular materials and amounts thereof recited in these examples, as well as other conditions and details, should not be construed to unduly limit this invention. All microorganism cultures were purchased from The American Type Culture Collection (ATCC; Manassas, VA).

    Preparation of Concentration Agents



    [0094] Kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) was purchased from Alfa Aesar (A Johnson Matthey Company, Ward Hill, MA) as a white powder (325 mesh; all particles less than 44 micrometers in size). This material was shown by X-ray diffraction (XRD) to contain amorphous silica along with crystalline α-cristobalite and quartz. Calcined diatomaceous earth was purchased from Solvadis, GmbH, Frankfurt, Germany (and observed to comprise small rods about 5 to about 80 micrometers in length and about 3 to about 8 micrometers in width, along with porous disks and disk fragments up to about 60 micrometers in primary length and asymmetrical fragments about 3 to about 60 micrometers in primary length). This material was shown by XRD to comprise predominantly α-cristobalite.

    [0095] Concentration agents comprising various different surface modifiers (namely, titanium dioxide; titanium dioxide in combination with ferric oxide; ferric oxide; platinum; gold; and gold in combination with ferric oxide) were prepared by surface treating the diatomaceous earth in the manner described below:

    Gold Deposition



    [0096] About 57-60 g of dried diatomaceous earth or metal oxide-modified diatomaceous earth support media (about 300 mL volume of powder) was further dried in an oven at 150°C for 24 hours to remove residual water. The resulting dried sample was placed while hot into the PVD apparatus described above in the detailed description with the PVD apparatus having a particle agitator with a blade gap of 2.7 mm. The vacuum chamber of the apparatus was then evacuated to a background pressure of about 5x10-5 Torr, and gas comprising argon sputtering gas was admitted to the chamber at a pressure of about 10 mTorr.

    [0097] The metal deposition process was then carried out by applying power to the cathode of the apparatus for a pre-set period of time, with its particle agitator shaft and holed blades being rotated at 4 rpm during DC magnetron sputter coating of metal at a controlled power of 0.02 kW. The duration of sputter coating was 5 hours. After the sputter coating was completed, the vacuum chamber was vented with air to ambient conditions, and the resulting metal-coated sample was removed from the PVD apparatus and sieved through a 25 mesh (0.707 mm) screen to separate fine particulates generated during the process. The amount of metal that had been deposited on the sample was determined by weighing (both before and after the deposition process) the metal sputtering target that was utilized. In general, about 18 percent of the weight loss of the target represented metal deposited on the sample (based on inductively coupled plasma analysis). From this information, the resulting amount of gold on the support medium was calculated to be about 0.9 weight percent.

    Platinum Deposition



    [0098] The above-described gold deposition process was essentially repeated, with the exception that a 7.62-cm (3-inch) platinum target was substituted for the 7.62-cm (3-inch) gold target that had been used, the power was set at 0.03 kW, and the time of deposition was 1 hour. The resulting amount of platinum on the support medium was calculated to be about 0.25 weight percent.

    Deposition of Titanium Dioxide



    [0099] A 20 weight percent titanium (IV) oxysulfate dehydrate solution was prepared by dissolving 20.0 g of TiO(SO4)2H2O (Noah Technologies Corporation, San Antonio, TX) in 80.0 g of deionized water with stirring. 50.0 g of this solution was mixed with 175 mL of deionized water to form a titanium dioxide precursor compound solution. A dispersion of diatomaceous earth was prepared by dispersing 50.0 g of diatomaceous earth in 500 mL of deionized water in a large beaker with rapid stirring. After heating the diatomaceous earth dispersion to about 80°C, the titanium dioxide precursor compound solution was added dropwise while rapidly stirring over a period of about 1 hour. After the addition, the beaker was covered with a watch glass and its contents heated to boiling for 20 minutes. An ammonium hydroxide solution was added to the beaker until the pH of the contents was about 9. The resulting product was washed by settling/decantation until the pH of the wash water was neutral. The product was separated by filtration and dried overnight at 100°C.

    [0100] A portion of the dried product was placed into a porcelain crucible and calcined by heating from room temperature to 350°C at a heating rate of about 3°C per minute and then held at 350°C for 1 hour.

    Deposition of Iron Oxide



    [0101] Iron oxide was deposited onto diatomaceous earth using essentially the above-described titanium dioxide deposition process, with the exception that a solution of 20.0 g of Fe(NO3)3·9H2O (J. T. Baker, Inc., Phillipsburg, N.J.) dissolved in 175 mL of deionized water was substituted for the titanyl sulfate solution. A portion of the resulting iron oxide-modified diatomaceous earth was similarly calcined to 350°C for further testing.

    Deposition of Iron Oxide and Titanium Dioxide



    [0102] A mixture of iron oxide and titanium dioxide was deposited onto diatomaceous earth using essentially the above-described titanium dioxide deposition process, with the exception that a solution of 10.0 g of Fe(NO3)3·9H2O (J. T. Baker, Inc., Phillipsburg, N.J.) and 25.0 g of TiO(SO4)·2H2O (Noah Technologies Corporation, San Antonio, TX) dissolved in 175 mL of deionized water was substituted for the titanyl sulfate solution. A portion of the resulting iron oxide- and titanium dioxide-modified diatomaceous earth was similarly calcined to 350°C for further testing.

    Concentration Agent Screening: Microorganism Concentration Test Method



    [0103] An isolated microorganism colony was inoculated into 5 mL BBL™ Trypticase™ Soy Broth (Bccton Dickinson, Sparks, MD) and incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours. This overnight culture at ∼109 colony forming units per mL was diluted in adsorption buffer (containing 5 mM KCl, ImM CaCl2, 0.1mM MgCl2, and ImM K2HPO4) at pH 7.2 to obtain 103 microorganisms per mL dilution. A 1.1 mL volume of the microorganism dilution was added to separate, labeled sterile 5 mL polypropylene tubes (BD Falcon™, Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) containing 10 mg of concentration agent, each of which was capped and mixed on a Thermolyne Maximix Plus™ vortex mixer (Barnstead International, Iowa). Each capped tube was incubated at room temperature (25°C) for 15 minutes on a Thermolyne Vari Mix™ shaker platform (Barnstead International, Iowa). After the incubation, each tube was allowed to stand on the lab bench for 10 minutes to settle the concentration agent. Control sample tubes containing 1.1 mL of the microorganism dilution without concentration agent were treated in the same manner. The resulting settled concentration agent and/or supernatant (and the control samples) were then used for analysis.

    [0104] The settled concentration agent was re-suspended in 1 mL sterile Butterfield's Buffer solution (pH 7.2 ± 0.2; monobasic potassium phosphate buffer solution; VWR Catalog Number 83008-093, VWR, West Chester, PA) and plated on 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates culture medium (dry, rehydratable; 3M Company, St. Paul., MN) according to the manufacturer's instructions. Aerobic count was quantified using a 3M™ Petrifilm™ Plate Reader (3M Company, St. Paul., MN). Results were calculated using the following formula:

    (where CFU = Colony Forming Unit, which is a unit of live or viable microorganisms). Results were then reported in terms of percent capture of microorganisms by the concentration agent using the formula below:



    [0105] For comparison purposes, in at least some cases 1 mL of the supernatant was removed and plated undiluted or diluted 1:10 in Butterfield's Buffer solution and plated onto 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates culture medium. Aerobic count was quantified using a 3M™ Petrifilm™ Plate Reader (3M Company, St. Paul., MN). Results were calculated using the following formula:

    (where CFU = Colony Forming Unit, which is a unit of live or viable microorganisms). When the microorganism colonies and the concentration agent were similar in color (providing little contrast for the plate reader), results were based upon the supernatant and were then reported in terms of percent capture of microorganisms by the concentration agent using the formula below:


    Concentration Agent Screenings 1-12 and Comparative Screenings 1 and 2



    [0106] Using the above-described microorganism concentration test method, 10 mg of various different surface-treated diatomaceous earth or surface-treated calcined diatomaceous earth concentration agents (prepared as described above) and 10 mg of untreated diatomaceous earth (hereinafter, DE) were tested separately for bacterial concentration against target microorganisms, the gram-negative bacterium Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) and the gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC 6538). The results are shown in Table 1 below.
    Table 1.
    Screening No.MicroorganismConcentration AgentPercent Capture ± Standard Deviation
    C-1 Staphylococcus DE 54 ± 13
    1 Staphylococcus TiO2-DE 94 ± 4
    2 Staphylococcus Fe2O3-TiO2-DE 96 ± 1
    3 Staphylococcus calcined Fe2O3-TiO2-DE 100 ± 0
    4 Staphylococcus Pt-calcined DE 99 ± 0
    5 Staphylococcus Au-Fe2O3-DE 99 ± 0
    6 Staphylococcus Au-calcined DE 99 ± 0
    C-2 Salmonella DE 45 ± 1
    7 Salmonella TiO2-DE 86 ± 3
    8 Salmonella Fe2O3-TiO2-DE 88 ± 1
    9 Salmonella calcined Fe2O3-TiO2-DE 89 ± 5
    10 Salmonella Pt-calcined DE 72 ± 1
    11 Salmonella Au-Fe2O3-DE 91 ± 6
    12 Salmonella Au-calcined DE 100 ± 0
    13 Salmonella Au-DE 89 ± 2

    Concentration Agent Screenings 14-19 and Comparative Screening 3



    [0107] Using the above-described microorganism concentration test method, 10 mg of various different surface-treated diatomaceous earth or surface-treated calcined diatomaceous earth concentration agents (prepared as described above) and 10 mg of untreated diatomaceous earth (hereinafter, DE) were tested separately for yeast concentration of the target microorganism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (102 CFU/mL; ATCC 201390). The resulting materials were plated on 3M™ Petrifilm™ Yeast and Mold Count Plate culture medium (dry, rehydratable; 3M Company, St. Paul, MN) and incubated for 5 days according to the manufacturer's instructions. Isolated yeast colonies were counted manually, and percent capture was calculated as described above. The results are shown in Table 2 below (standard deviation for all samples less than 10 percent).
    Table 2.
    Screening No.MicroorganismConcentration AgentPercent Capture
    C-3 Saccharomyces DE 42
    14 Saccharomyces TiO2-DE 99
    15 Saccharomyces Fe2O3-TiO2-DE 93
    16 Saccharomyces calcined Fe2O3-TiO2-DE 100
    17 Saccharomyces Pt-calcined DE 100
    18 Saccharomyces Au-Fe2O3-DE 100
    19 Saccharomyces Au-calcined DE 99

    Concentration Agent Screenings 20-22 and Comparative Screenings 4-6



    [0108] Food samples were purchased from a local grocery store (Cub Foods, St. Paul). Ham slices, lettuce, and apple juice samples (11 g) were weighed in sterile glass dishes and added to sterile Stomacher™ polyethylene filter bags (Seward Corp, Norfolk, UK). The food samples were spiked with bacterial cultures at a 102 CFU/mL concentration using an 18-20 hour overnight culture (stock) of Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987). This was followed by the addition of 99 mL of Butterfield's Buffer solution to each spiked sample. The resulting samples were blended for a 2-minute cycle in a Stomacher™ 400 Circulator laboratory blender (Seward Corp. Norfolk, UK). The blended samples were collected in sterile 50 mL conical polypropylene centrifuge tubes (BD Falcon™, Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) and centrifuged (Eppendorf™ centrifuge 5804; Westbury, NY) at 2000 revolutions per minute (rpm) for 5 minutes to remove large debris. The resulting supernatants were used as samples for further testing.

    [0109] Using the above-described microorganism concentration test method, each 1 mL test sample prepared as above was added separately to a test tube containing 10 mg of surface-treated diatomaceous earth and to a control test tube containing 10 mg of untreated diatomaceous earth and tested for bacterial concentration of the target microorganism, Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987). For testing in lettuce, samples were placed in sterile 100 x 20 mm tissue culture petridishes (Sarstedt, Newton, NC) and incubated under ultraviolet (UV) lights in an Alphalmager™ Multilmage™ light cabinet (Alpha Innotech Corporation, San Leandro, CA) for 1 hour to eliminate background flora. Such UV-treated samples were confirmed for absence of native flora (by plating and counting a 1 mL sample essentially as described above) and then used for concentration experiments. The results are shown in Table 3 below (standard deviation for all samples less than 10 percent).
    Table 3.
    Screening No.MicroorganismConcentration AgentSamplePercent Capture
    C-4 Salmonella DE Apple Juice 43
    20 Salmonella Au-Fe2O3-DE Apple Juice 94
    C-5 Salmonella DE Ham 75
    21 Salmonella Au-Fe2O3-DE Ham 94
    C-6 Salmonella DE Lettuce 55
    22 Salmonella Au-Fe2O3-DE Lettuce 80

    Concentration Agent Screenings 23-24 and Comparative Screenings 7-8



    [0110] Following the procedure of Examples 20-22 and Comparative Examples 4-6 above with a turkey sample (using 25 g of sliced turkey and 225 mL Butterfield's Buffer solution), surface treated diatomaceous earth and untreated diatomaceous earth were separately tested for concentration of the target microorganism Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) from large-volume samples (300 mg concentration agent per 30 mL sample volume). Also tested was potable water (100 mL) from a drinking fountain, which was collected in a sterile 250 mL glass bottle (VWR, West Chester, PA) and inoculated with the target microorganism Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) at 102 CFU/mL. The resulting inoculated water was mixed manually end-to-end 5 times and incubated at room temperature (25°C) for 15 minutes.

    [0111] 30 mL samples prepared as described above were added to sterile 50 mL conical polypropylene centrifuge tubes (BD Falcon™, Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) containing 300 mg of concentration agent and were tested by using the above-described microorganism concentration test method. The resulting settled concentration agent was re-suspended in 30 mL sterile Butterfield's Buffer solution and plated on 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates culture medium. The results are shown in Table 4 below (standard deviation for all samples less than 10 percent).
    Table 4.
    Screening No.MicroorganismConcentration AgentSamplePercent Capture
    C-7 Salmonella DE Potable Water 79
    23 Salmonella Au-Fe2O3-DE Potable Water 97
    C-8 Salmonella DE Turkey 52
    24 Salmonella Au-Fe2O3-DE Turkey 88

    Concentration Agent Screenings 25-34



    [0112] 10 mg samples of various different surface-treated diatomaceous earth concentration agents (prepared as described above) were tested separately for concentration of the target bacterial endospores Bacillus atrophaeus (ATCC 9372) and Bacillus subtilis (ATCC 19659). The above-described microorganism concentration test method was utilized with the following modifications: the overnight cultures had 1.4 x 103 CFU/mL Bacillus atrophaeus and 6 x 102 CFU/mL Bacillus subtilis, respectively; the resulting supernatants were plated undiluted; and the settled concentration agent with bound microorganism was resuspended in 5 mL sterile Butterfield's Buffer solution and plated in duplicate (1 mL each). Capture efficiencies were calculated based on counts from the plated supernatants, and the results are shown in Table 5 below (standard deviation for all samples less than 10 percent).
    Table 5.
    Screening No.MicroorganismConcentration AgentPercent Capture
    25 Bacillus atrophaeus TiO2-DE 79
    26 Bacillus atrophaeus Fe2O3-DE 97
    27 Bacillus atrophaeus Pt-DE 100
    28 Bacillus atrophaeus Au-DE 81
    29 Bacillus atrophaeus Au-Fe2O3-DE 100
    30 Bacillus subtilis TiO2-DE 97
    31 Bacillus subtilis Fe2O3-DE 97
    32 Bacillus subtilis Pt-DE 100
    33 Bacillus subtilis Au-DE 99
    34 Bacillus subtilis Au-Fe2O3-DE 99

    Concentration Agent Screenings 35-38



    [0113] 10 mg samples of two different surface-treated diatomaceous earth concentration agents (namely, Pt-DE and Au- Fe2O3-DE) were tested separately for concentration of the target non-enveloped, bacteria-infecting virus, Escherichia coli bacteriophage MS2 (ATCC 15597-B1; which is often used as a surrogate for various human-infecting, non-enveloped enteric viruses). A double layer agar method (described below) was used to assay for capture of the Escherichia coli bacteriophage MS2 (ATCC 15597-B1) using Escherichia coli bacteria (ATCC 15597) as host.

    [0114] Escherichia coli bacteriophage MS2 stock was diluted ten-fold serially in sterile IX adsorption buffer (containing 5 mM KCl, 1 mM CaCl2, 0.1 mM MgCl2, and 1 mM K2HPO4) at pH 7.2 to obtain two dilutions with 103 and 102 plaque forming units per milliliter (PFUs/mL), respectively. A 1.0 mL volume of resulting bacteriophage dilution was added to a labeled sterile 5 mL polypropylene tube (BD Falcon™, Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) containing 10 mg of concentration agent and mixed on a Thermolyne Maximix Plus™ vortex mixer (Barnstead International, Iowa). The capped tube was incubated at room temperature (25°C) for 15 minutes on a Thermolyne Vari Mix™ shaker platform (Barnstead International, Iowa). After the incubation, the tube was allowed to stand on the lab bench for 10 minutes to settle the concentration agent. A control sample tube containing 1.0 mL of the bacteriophage dilution without concentration agent was treated in the same manner. The resulting settled concentration agent and supernatant (and the control sample) were then used for analysis.

    [0115] 100 microliters of the supernatant was removed and assayed for bacteriophage using the double layer agar method described below. An additional 800 microliters of supernatant was removed and discarded. One hundred microliters of the settled concentration agent was also assayed for bacteriophage.

    Double Layer Agar Method:



    [0116] A single colony of Escherichia coli bacteria (ATCC 15597) was inoculated into 25 mL sterile 3 weight percent tryptic soy broth (Bacto™ Tryptic Soy Broth, Becton Dickinson and Company, Sparks, MD; prepared according to manufacturer's instructions) and incubated at 37°C in a shaker incubator (Innova™ 44, New Brunswick Scientific Co., Inc., Edison, NJ) set at 250 revolutions per minute (rpm) overnight. 750 microliters of this overnight culture was used to inoculate 75 mL sterile 3 weight percent tryptic soy broth. The resulting culture was incubated at 37°C in the shaker incubator set at 250 rpm to obtain Escherichia coli cells in the exponential phase as measured by absorbance at 550 nm (absorbance values 0.3-0.6) using a SpectraMax M5 spectrophotometer (Molecular Devices, Sunnyvale, CA). The cells were incubated on ice until used for assay.

    [0117] One hundred microliters of the above-described bacteriophage test samples were mixed with 75 microliters of the ice-incubated Escherichia coli (host bacteria) cells and incubated at room temperature (25°C) for 5 minutes. The resulting samples were mixed with 5 mL sterile molten top agar (3 weight percent tryptic soy broth, 1.5 weight percent NaCl, 0.6 weight percent agar; prepared that day and maintained in a 48°C waterbath). The mixture was then poured on top of bottom agar (3 weight percent tryptic soy broth, 1.5 weight percent NaCl, 1.2 weight percent agar) in petridishes. The molten agar component of the mixture was allowed to solidify for 5 minutes, and the petridishes or plates were inverted and incubated at 37°C. The plates were visually inspected after overnight incubation, and those plates containing settled concentration agent (as well as the control plate) showed the presence of bacteriophage plaques. Capture efficiencies were calculated based on counts from the plated supernatants and determined to be 96 percent and 97 percent for Pt-DE (for the 103 and 102 PFU/mL dilutions, respectively) and 94 percent and 95 percent for Au- Fe2O3-DE (for the 103 and 102 PFU/mL dilutions, respectively) (standard deviation less than 10 percent).

    Concentration Agent Screenings 39-41



    [0118] Apple juice was purchased from a local grocery store (Cub Foods, St. Paul). Apple juice (11 g) was weighed in a sterile glass dish and added to 99 mL sterile Butterfield's Buffer. The resulting combination was mixed by swirling for 1 minute and was spiked with two bacterial cultures, each at a 1 CFU/mL concentration, using 18-20 hour overnight cultures (bacterial stocks) of Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) and Escherichia coli (ATCC 51813). Serial dilutions of the bacterial stocks had been made in 1X adsorption buffer as described above.

    [0119] Using the above-described microorganism concentration test method, a 10 mL volume of the spiked apple juice sample was added to a sterile 50 mL conical polypropylene centrifuge tube (BD Falcon™, Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) containing 100 mg of a surface-treated diatomaceous earth concentration agent (namely, Fe2O3-DE, TiO2-DE, or Au- Fe2O3-DE) and incubated for 15 minutes for bacterial capture/concentration of the target microorganism, Salmonella (in the presence of the Escherichia coli, a competitor microorganism). The resulting supernatant was removed, and the settled concentration agent was transferred to another sterile 50 mL tube containing 2 mL sterile 3 weight percent tryptic soy broth (Bacto™ Tryptic Soy Broth, Becton Dickinson and Company, Sparks, MD; prepared according to manufacturer's instructions). The tube was loosely capped, and its contents were mixed and incubated at 37°C. After overnight incubation, the resulting broth mixture was tested for the presence of Salmonella using a RapidChek™ Salmonella lateral flow immunoassay test strip from SDI (Strategic Diagnostics, Inc., Newark, DE). Visual inspection of the test strip showed it to be positive for Salmonella.

    [0120] Nucleic acid detection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was also carried out for the microorganism-containing broth mixture. 1 mL of the above-described overnight-incubated, concentration agent-containing broth was assayed as a test sample for the presence of Salmonella by using a TaqMan™ ABI Salmonella enterica Detection Kit from Applied Biosystems (Foster City, CA). As a control sample, 1 mL of the 18-20 hour overnight culture (stock) of Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) was also assayed. PCR testing was conducted in a Stratagene Mx3005P™ QPCR (quantitative PCR) System (Stratagene Corporation, La Jolla, CA) by using the following cycle conditions per cycle for 45 cycles: 25°C for 30 seconds, 95°C for 10 minutes, 95°C for 15 seconds, and 60°C for 1 minute. An average (n=2) cycle threshold value (CT value) of 17.71 was obtained for the control sample. Average (n=2) CT values of 18.59, 20.44, and 16.53 were obtained for the test samples containing Fe2O3-DE, TiO2-DE, or Au- Fe2O3-DE, respectively, indicating a positive PCR reaction and confirming the presence of Salmonella.

    Preparation of Concentration Devices



    [0121] Two different ultra high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) powders were obtained from Ticona (a division of Celanese headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany) as PMX1 (product number GUR™ 2126, irregularly shaped, size range of 50-100 micrometers) and PMX2 (product number GUR™4150-3, spherical, median particle size of about 40 micrometers). The powders were combined in a 4:1 ratio of PMX1:PMX2. The resulting combination (hereinafter, UHMWPE mixture) was used to prepare three types of concentration devices.

    [0122] For Concentration Device Type A, a mixture of 40 percent by weight concentration agent comprising ferric oxide (prepared essentially as described above; designated Fe2O3-DE) was combined with 60 weight percent of the UHMWPE mixture. For Concentration Device Type B, a mixture of 40 percent by weight concentration agent comprising titanium dioxide (prepared essentially as described above; designated TiO2-DE) was combined with 60 weight percent of the UHMWPE mixture. For Concentration Device Type C (Control), the UHMWPE mixture was used without added concentration agent. For each concentration device, the selected components were weighed out into a one-liter cylindrical container or jar. The jar was then placed on a rollermill spinning at a low speed (about 10-15 revolutions per minute (rpm)) for at least two hours to produce a homogenous blend or floc.

    [0123] A portion (about 6 g) of the floc was then used to fill a 50 mm diameter cylindrical mold, which had a depth of 5 mm and also had 0.05 mm (2 mil) thick disks of polytetrafluoroethylene-impregnated fiberglass placed in its bottom and in its lid to prevent sticking of the floc and to retard heat transfer through the faces of the mold. The floc was compressed into the mold, and the lid of the mold was then pressed into position to close the mold.

    [0124] The filled mold was placed on a vortex mixer (IKA™ MS3 Digital Vortexer, available from VWR Scientific, West Chester, PA) for 10 seconds to eliminate voids and cracks in its contents. The mold was then placed in a vented convection oven (Thelco Precision Model 6555, available from Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc., Waltham, MA) set at 180-185°C for one hour to sinter the floc. After cooling to room temperature (about 23°C), the resulting sintered floc was removed from the mold and trimmed using a punch die to a 47 mm diameter for use as a concentration device.

    Examples 1-2 and Comparative Examples C-1 - C-4



    [0125] Food samples (pasteurized orange juice (pulp-free), sliced ham luncheon meat, and sliced chicken luncheon meat) were purchased from a local grocery store (Cub Foods, St Paul, MN). 25 mL of the orange juice and 25 grams of each sliced meat were weighed separately in sterile Stomacher™ polyethylene filter bags (PE-LD Model 400, Seward Corp, Norfolk, UK). The resulting samples were inoculated with both Salmonella enterica subsp enterica serovar Typhimurium bacteria (ATCC 35987) and Escherichia coli bacteria (ATCC 51813) at about 1 CFU/mL concentrations of each from overnight tryptic soy broth cultures (prepared essentially as described above under the heading "Concentration Agent Screening: Microorganism Concentration Test Method" except using Bacto™ Tryptic Soy Broth (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD)).

    [0126] After incubating the spiked samples at room temperature (about 23°C) for about 10 minutes, test samples were made by adding 225 mL of sterile Butterfield's Buffer (pH 7.2, VWR, West Chester, PA) to each spiked sample to provide the approximate total sample microorganism concentrations shown in Table 6 below. The resulting orange juice-based samples (each having a total volume of about 250 mL) were mixed by swirling and then used for testing. The resulting luncheon meat-based samples (each having a total volume of about 250 mL) were blended for a 2-minute cycle in a Stomacher™ 400 Circulator laboratory blender (Seward Corp. Norfolk, UK) at 230 revolutions per minute (rpm) and were then processed through a sterile 100 micrometer mesh filter (Cell Strainer, BD, San Jose, CA) prior to testing.

    [0127] The samples were pumped through selected concentration devices at a flow rate of 10 mL/minute for 25 minutes using a custom made sample holder for the concentration device (the holder consisting of upper and lower flow distribution plates with a plastic tube machined out to provide a friction fit for the 47 mm diameter concentration device; O-rings were used to prevent leakage on the upstream and downstream sides; throughbolts provided closure pressure), a peristaltic pump (Heidolph™ Pump Drive 5201 peristaltic pump, available from VWR Scientific, West Chester, PA), and 3.1 mm internal diameter tubing. A digital pressure sensor (SSI Technologies Model MGI-30-A-9V, Cole-Parmer, Vernon Hills, Illinois) was placed upstream of the sample holder to monitor pressure drop.

    [0128] The concentration devices included those of Types A (Fe2O3-DE) and C (no concentration agent), both prepared essentially as described above, as well as comparative commercial absolute micron filters (0.8 micrometer polyether sulfone and 0.45 micrometer nylon filter membranes from Pall Corporation, East Hills, NY). Corresponding food samples that were never spiked with microorganisms (and never run through the concentration devices) were plated undiluted on 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates (3M Company, St. Paul, MN). The plated samples were incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours and were quantified the next day (per the manufacturer's instructions) as controls and were found to be negative for the presence of microorganisms.

    [0129] After pumping, the concentration device was removed from its holder using sterile forceps and was incubated overnight in a sterile Stomacher™ polyethylene filter bag (PE-LD Model 400, Seward Corp, Norfolk, UK) containing 25 mL of sterile Bacto™ Tryptic Soy Broth (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD). The bag was closed with rubber bands and incubated in a 37°C shaker incubator (VWR Signature™ Benchtop Shaking Incubator Model 1575R, VWR Scientific, West Chester, PA) at 75 rpm for 18-20 hours. After the overnight incubation, the resulting cultures were tested for the presence of Salmonella by using commercial immunoassays (for example, 3M™ TECRA™ Unique Salmonella immunoassay, available from 3M Company, St. Paul, MN, or RapidChek™ Salmonella lateral flow immunoassay test strip, available from Strategic Diagnostics, Inc. (SDI), Newark, DE). Results are shown in Table 6 below. Concentration devices of the invention were generally able to process somewhat larger volumes of particulate-containing samples prior to clogging than were the commercial absolute micron filters.
    Table 6
    Example No.SampleMicro-organismsTotal Micro-organism Concentration in 250 mL Sample (CFUs)Concentration DeviceSample Volume Passed (mL)/Total Sample Volume (mL)Salmonella Immuno-assay Result (Post Incubation)
    C-1 Orange Juice E. coli and Salmonella 650 Commercial Filter (0.45 micrometer) 8/250 Positive
    C-2 Orange Juice E. coli and Salmonella 670 Type C (Control) 100/250 Positive
    1 Orange Juice E. coli and Salmonella 850 Type A (Fe2O3-DE) 200/250 Positive
    C-3 Ham E. coli and Salmonella 650 Commercial Filter (0.8 micrometer) 2/250 Positive
    C-4 Ham E. coli and Salmonella 670 Type C (Control) 250/250 Positive
    2 Chicken E. coli and Salmonella 280 Type A (Fe2O3-DE) 12/250 Positive

    Example 3



    [0130] Pasteurized apple juice was purchased from a local grocery store (Cub Foods, St. Paul, MN). 25 mL of the apple juice was mixed with 225 mL sterile Butterfield's Buffer (pH 7.2, VWR, West Chester, PA) and was inoculated with Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) at a concentration of about 100 CFU/mL. The resulting sample was incubated at room temperature (about 23°C) for 10 minutes and then was pumped (essentially as described above) through a Type B (TiO2-DE) concentration device (prepared essentially as described above) at a flow rate of 10 mL/minute for 25 minutes. Flow through sample fractions (1 mL) were collected in labeled sterile 5 mL polypropylene tubes (BD Falcon™, Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, NJ) every five minutes for 25 minutes and were plated onto 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates culture medium (dry, rehydratable; 3M Company, St. Paul, MN) according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    [0131] After the sample was passed through the concentration device, the device was placed (using sterile forceps essentially as described above) in a sterile Stomacher™ polyethylene filter bag (PE-LD Model 400, Seward Corp, Norfolk, UK) containing 100 mL sterile 3 weight percent tryptic soy broth (Bacto™ Tryptic Soy Broth, Becton Dickinson and Company, Sparks, MD, prepared according to the manufacturer's instructions). The bag was loosely tied and incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours. After 6 hours incubation, 100 microliters were removed from the bag and plated undiluted on 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates (3M Company, St. Paul., MN), which were also incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours (along with the flow through sample plates) and quantified the next day according to the manufacturer's instructions.

    [0132] Capture efficiency was calculated based on counts obtained from the plated flow through sample fractions by using the formula below (where CFU = Colony Forming Unit, which is a unit of live or viable microorganisms):



    A capture efficiency of greater than 99 percent was obtained. The plate containing the 6-hour time point sample (resulting from concentration device incubation for 6 hours) was analyzed and found to contain colonies too numerous to count, indicating that the captured bacteria were viable.

    [0133] The overnight cultured broth containing the concentration device was diluted in Butterfield's Buffer and plated onto 3M™ Petrifilm™ Aerobic Count Plates (3M Company, St. Paul., MN), which were incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours and quantified the next day. Plate counts indicated that the captured Salmonella in the concentration device had increased in number to a concentration of about 2.7 x 109 CFU/mL.

    Example 4



    [0134] An isolated bacterial colony of Salmonella enterica subsp.enterica serovar Typhimurium (ATCC 35987) was inoculated into 5 mL BBL™ Trypticase™ Soy Broth (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD) and incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours. This overnight culture at a concentration of about 1 X 109 CFU/mL was diluted in Butterfield's Buffer (pH 7.2 ± 0.2; monobasic potassium phosphate buffer solution; VWR Catalog Number 83008-093, VWR, West Chester, PA) to obtain an approximately 1 X 103 CFU/mL inoculum.

    [0135] A volume of 250 mL potable water (from a drinking fountain) was spiked with a 1:100 dilution of the approximately 1 X 103 CFU/mL inoculum, resulting in a sample having a concentration of about 16 CFU/mL (total of about 4000 CFUs in the 250 mL sample). The sample was pumped (essentially as described above) through a Type A (Fe2O3-DE) concentration device (prepared essentially as described above) at a flow rate of 10 mL/minute for 25 minutes. Flow through sample fractions (1 mL) were collected and plated essentially as described above.

    [0136] After the sample was passed through the concentration device, the concentration device was 'flushed' with filter-sterilized 20 mL Butterfield's Buffer containing 500 micrograms/mL BSA (Bovine Serum Albumin, stock of 1mg/mL in water, powder purchased from Sigma Chemicals, St Louis, MO) for elution of bacteria by reversing the flow (5 mL/min). The resulting eluate was collected in a sterile 50 mL polypropylene tube and plated essentially as described above.

    [0137] The concentration device was removed, bagged, incubated overnight (along with the plated flow through sample fractions and plated eluate), and the incubated plates were quantified the next day essentially as described above. After 4.5 hours of incubation, a 100 microliter sample was removed from the bag containing the concentration device, the sample was diluted in 900 microliters of Butterfield's Buffer, and the resulting total 1 mL volume was plated essentially as described above.

    [0138] Capture efficiency was calculated based on counts obtained from the plated flow through sample fractions (essentially as described above), and a capture efficiency of greater than 99 percent was obtained. Elution (by reversing the flow) released approximately 17 percent (680 /4000 CFU) of the captured inoculum. The plate containing the 4.5-hour time point sample (resulting from concentration device incubation for 4.5 hours) was analyzed and found to contain an average of about 1300 CFU/mL, indicating that the captured bacteria were viable.

    [0139] The overnight cultured broth containing the concentration device was tested for the presence of Salmonella using a SDI RapidChek® Salmonella lateral flow immunoassay strip from SDI (Strategic Diagnostics Inc., Newark, DE), and a positive result was obtained. The overnight cultured broth containing the concentration device was diluted, plated, and the plates incubated overnight and quantified the next day essentially as described above. The resulting plate counts indicated that the captured Salmonella in the concentration device had increased in number to a concentration of about 2.5x109 CFU/mL.

    Comparative Example C-5



    [0140] The procedure of Example 4 was essentially repeated using a Type C (control) concentration device (no concentration agent) instead of the Type A (Fe2O3-DE) concentration device, and using a spiked potable water sample having about 13 CFU/mL (total of about 3300 CFUs in the approximately 250 mL sample). A capture efficiency of greater than 99 percent was obtained, and elution (by reversing the flow) released approximately 2.4 percent (80/3300 CFUs) of the captured inoculum (almost an order of magnitude less than the percent eluted in Example 4 above). This elution result suggests that a concentration device of the invention can provide advantages over the comparative device in the isolation or separation of captured microorganisms to facilitate further analysis.

    Example 5



    [0141] An isolated bacterial colony of Escherichia coli (ATCC 51813) was inoculated into 5 mL BBL™ Trypticase™ Soy Broth (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD) and incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours. This overnight culture at a concentration of about 1 X 109 CFU/mL was diluted in Butterfield's Buffer (pH 7.2 ± 0.2; monobasic potassium phosphate buffer solution; VWR Catalog Number 83008-093, VWR, West Chester, PA) to obtain an approximately 1 X 104 CFU/mL inoculum.

    [0142] A volume of 9.6 liters of deionized water (18 megaohm, Milli-Q™ Biocel water purification system, Millipore, MA) was spiked with a 1:100 dilution of the approximately 1 X 104 CFU/mL inoculum, resulting in a sample having a concentration of about 140 CFU/mL (total of about 1.3 X 106 CFUs in the sample). The sample was pumped (essentially as described above) through a Type A (Fe2O3-DE) concentration device (prepared essentially as described above) at a flow rate of 20 mL/minute for about 8 hours.

    [0143] Flow through sample fractions (1 mL) were collected every 15 minutes for the first hour and then every hour for the next 7 hours and were plated essentially as described above. Capture efficiency was calculated based on counts obtained from the plated flow through sample fractions (essentially as described above), and a capture efficiency of greater than 99 percent was obtained.

    Example 6



    [0144] An isolated bacterial colony of Escherichia coli (ATCC 51813) was inoculated into 5 mL BBL™ Trypticase™ Soy Broth (Becton Dickinson, Sparks, MD) and incubated at 37°C for 18-20 hours. This overnight culture at a concentration of about 1 X 109 CFU/mL was diluted in Butterfield's Buffer (pH 7.2 ± 0.2; monobasic potassium phosphate buffer solution; VWR Catalog Number 83008-093, VWR, West Chester, PA) to obtain an approximately 1 X 104 CFU/mL inoculum.

    [0145] A volume of 2.7 liters of deionized water (18 megaohm, Milli-Q™ Biocel water purification system, Millipore, MA) was spiked with a 1:100 dilution of the approximately 1 X 104 CFU/mL inoculum, resulting in a sample having a concentration of about 120 CFU/mL (total of about 3.1 X 105 CFUs in the sample). The sample was pumped (essentially as described above) through a Type B (TiO2-DE) concentration device (prepared essentially as described above) at a flow rate of 15 mL/minute for about 3 hours.

    [0146] Flow through sample fractions (1 mL) were collected every 15 minutes and were plated essentially as described above. Capture efficiency was calculated based on counts obtained from the plated flow through sample fractions (essentially as described above), and a capture efficiency of 97 percent was obtained.


    Claims

    1. A process comprising:

    (a) providing a concentration device comprising a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising at least one concentration agent that comprises diatomaceous earth bearing, on at least a portion of its surface, a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof, wherein said at least one concentration agent has a negative zeta potential at a pH of 7;

    (b) providing a sample comprising at least one microorganism strain;

    (c) contacting said concentration device with said sample such that at least a portion of said at least one microorganism strain is bound to or captured by said concentration device; and

    (d) detecting the presence of at least one bound microorganism strain.


     
    2. The process of Claim 1, wherein said detecting is carried out by a method selected from culture-based methods, microscopy and other imaging methods, genetic detection methods, immunologic detection methods, luminescence-based detection methods, and combinations thereof.
     
    3. The process of Claim 1, wherein said process further comprises separating said concentration device from said sample and/or culturally enriching at least one bound microorganism strain and/or separating at least a portion of at least one bound microorganism strain from said concentration device.
     
    4. The process of Claim 1, wherein said sintered porous polymer matrix comprises at least one thermoplastic polymer.
     
    5. The process of Claim 4, wherein said thermoplastic polymer is selected from olefin homopolymers, olefin copolymers, copolymers of olefins and other vinyl monomers, and combinations thereof.
     
    6. The process of Claim 5, wherein said olefin homopolymer is polyethylene.
     
    7. The process of Claim 1, wherein said concentration device comprises a tortuous path matrix.
     
    8. The process of Claim 1, wherein said surface modifier is selected from fine-nanoscale gold, fine-nanoscale platinum, fine-nanoscale gold in combination with at least one metal oxide, titanium dioxide, titanium dioxide in combination with at least one other metal oxide, ferric oxide, ferric oxide in combination with at least one other metal oxide, and combinations thereof.
     
    9. The process of Claim 8, wherein said surface modifier is selected from fine-nanoscale gold, fine-nanoscale platinum, fine-nanoscale gold in combination with at least ferric oxide or titanium dioxide, titanium dioxide, titanium dioxide in combination with at least ferric oxide, ferric oxide, and combinations thereof.
     
    10. The process of Claim 1, wherein said sample is in the form of a fluid.
     
    11. The process of Claim 1, wherein said microorganism strain is selected from strains of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, protozoans, viruses, bacterial endospores, and combinations thereof.
     
    12. The process of claim 1, wherein the sintered porous polymer matrix comprises a sintered polyethylene tortuous path matrix; wherein the surface modifier is selected from fine-nanoscale gold, fine-nanoscale platinum, fine-nanoscale gold in combination with at least ferric oxide or titanium dioxide, titanium dioxide, titanium dioxide in combination with at least ferric oxide, ferric oxide, and combinations thereof; wherein the sample is a fluid sample comprising at least one microorganism strain selected from bacteria, yeasts, viruses, bacterial endospores, and combinations thereof; and wherein the concentration device is contacted with the sample by passing the fluid sample through the concentration device.
     
    13. A concentration device comprising a sintered porous polymer matrix comprising at least one concentration agent that comprises diatomaceous earth bearing, on at least a portion of its surface, a surface treatment comprising a surface modifier comprising ferric oxide, titanium dioxide, fine-nanoscale gold or platinum, or a combination thereof, wherein said at least one concentration agent has a negative zeta potential at a pH of 7.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Ein Verfahren, umfassend:

    (a) Bereitstellen einer Konzentrationsvorrichtung, umfassend eine gesinterte, poröse Polymermatrix, die mindestens ein Konzentrationsmittel umfasst, das Diatomeenerde umfasst, die auf mindestens einem Teil ihrer Oberfläche eine Oberflächenbehandlung aufweist, umfassend einen Oberflächenmodifikator, der Eisen(III)-oxid, Titandioxid, fein-nanoskaliges Gold oder Platin oder eine Kombination davon umfasst, wobei das mindestens eine Konzentrationsmittel ein negatives Zetapotential bei einem pH-Wert von 7 aufweist;

    (b) Bereitstellen einer Probe, die mindestens einen Mikroorganismus-Stamm umfasst;

    (c) Inkontaktbringen der Konzentrationsvorrichtung mit der Probe, so dass mindestens ein Teil des mindestens einen Mikroorganismus-Stamms an die Konzentrationsvorrichtung gebunden oder von ihr eingefangen wird; und

    (d) Nachweisen der Anwesenheit mindestens eines gebundenen Mikroorganismus-Stamms.


     
    2. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das Nachweisen mit einem Verfahren durchgeführt wird, das aus auf Kultur basierenden Verfahren, Mikroskopie und anderen bildgebenden Verfahren, genetischen Nachweisverfahren, immunologischen Nachweisverfahren, lumineszenzbasierten Nachweisverfahren und Kombinationen davon ausgewählt ist.
     
    3. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das Verfahren ferner das Trennen der Konzentrationsvorrichtung von der Probe und/oder das kulturelle Anreichern mindestens eines gebundenen Mikroorganismus-Stamms und/oder das Trennen mindestens eines Teils des mindestens einen gebundenen Mikroorganismus-Stamms von der Konzentrationsvorrichtung umfasst.
     
    4. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die gesinterte, poröse Polymermatrix mindestens ein thermoplastisches Polymer umfasst.
     
    5. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 4, wobei das thermoplastische Polymer aus Olefinhomopolymeren, Olefincopolymeren, Copolymeren von Olefinen und anderen Vinylmonomeren und Kombinationen davon ausgewählt ist.
     
    6. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 5, wobei das Olefinhomopolymer Polyethylen ist.
     
    7. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Konzentrationsvorrichtung eine gewundene Pfadmatrix umfasst.
     
    8. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Oberflächenmodifikator ausgewählt ist aus fein-nanoskaligem Gold, fein-nanoskaligem Platin, fein-nanoskaligem Gold in Kombination mit mindestens einem Metalloxid, Titandioxid, Titandioxid in Kombination mit mindestens einem anderen Metalloxid, Eisen(III)-oxid, Eisen(III)-oxid in Kombination mit mindestens einem anderen Metalloxid und Kombinationen davon.
     
    9. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 8, wobei der Oberflächenmodifikator ausgewählt ist aus fein-nanoskaligem Gold, fein-nanoskaligem Platin, fein-nanoskaligem Gold in Kombination mit mindestens Eisen(III)-oxid oder Titandioxid, Titandioxid, Titandioxid in Kombination mit mindestens Eisen(III)-oxid, Eisen(III)-oxid und Kombinationen davon.
     
    10. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Probe in Form eines Fluids vorliegt.
     
    11. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Mikroorganismus-Stamm ausgewählt ist aus Stämmen von Bakterien, Pilzen, Hefen, Protozoen, Viren, bakteriellen Endosporen und Kombinationen davon.
     
    12. Das Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die gesinterte poröse Polymermatrix eine gesinterte gewundene Pfadmatrix auf Polyethylenbasis umfasst; wobei der Oberflächenmodifikator aus fein-nanoskaligem Gold, fein-nanoskaligem Platin, fein-nanoskaligem Gold in Kombination mit mindestens Eisen(III)-oxid oder Titandioxid, Titandioxid, Titandioxid in Kombination mit mindestens Eisen(III)-oxid, Eisen(III)-oxid, und Kombinationen davon ausgewählt ist; wobei die Probe eine fluide Probe ist, die mindestens einen Mikroorganismus-Stamm umfasst, der aus Bakterien, Hefen, Viren, bakteriellen Endosporen und Kombinationen davon ausgewählt ist und, wobei die Konzentrationsvorrichtung mit der Probe kontaktiert wird, indem die fluide Probe durch die Konzentrationsvorrichtung läuft.
     
    13. Eine Konzentrationsvorrichtung, umfassend eine gesinterte, poröse Polymermatrix, die mindestens ein Konzentrationsmittel umfasst, das Diatomeenerde umfasst, die auf mindestens einem Teil ihrer Oberfläche eine Oberflächenbehandlung aufweist, umfassend einen Oberflächenmodifikator, der Eisen(III)-oxid, Titandioxid, fein-nanoskaliges Gold oder Platin, oder eine Kombination davon umfasst, wobei das mindestens eine Konzentrationsmittel ein negatives Zetapotential bei einem pH-Wert von 7 aufweist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé comprenant :

    (a) la fourniture d'un dispositif de concentration comprenant une matrice de polymère poreux fritté comprenant au moins un agent de concentration qui comprend des terres de diatomées portant, sur au moins une partie de leur surface, un traitement de surface comprenant un modificateur de surface comprenant de l'oxyde ferrique, du dioxyde de titane, de l'or ou du platine nanométrique ou une de leurs combinaisons, dans lequel ledit au moins un agent de concentration a un potentiel zêta négatif à pH 7 ;

    (b) la fourniture d'un échantillon comprenant au moins une souche de micro-organisme ;

    (c) la mise en contact dudit dispositif de concentration avec ledit échantillon de sorte qu'au moins une partie de ladite au moins une souche de micro-organisme se lie à ou soit capturée par ledit dispositif de concentration ; et

    (d) la détection de la présence d'au moins une souche de micro-organisme liée.


     
    2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ladite détection est effectuée selon une méthode choisie parmi les méthodes à base de cultures, les méthodes de microscopie et autres méthodes d'imagerie, les méthodes de détection génétique, les méthodes de détection immunologique, les méthodes de détection par luminescence et leurs combinaisons.
     
    3. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit procédé comprend en outre la séparation dudit dispositif de concentration dudit échantillon et/ou l'enrichissement par culture d'au moins une souche de micro-organisme liée et/ou la séparation d'au moins une partie d'au moins une souche de micro-organisme liée dudit dispositif de concentration.
     
    4. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ladite matrice de polymère poreux fritté comprend au moins un polymère thermoplastique.
     
    5. Procédé selon la revendication 4, dans lequel ledit polymère thermoplastique est choisi parmi les homopolymères d'oléfines, les copolymères d'oléfines, les copolymères d'oléfines et d'autres monomères vinyliques et leurs combinaisons.
     
    6. Procédé selon la revendication 5, dans lequel ledit homopolymère d'oléfine est le polyéthylène.
     
    7. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit dispositif de concentration comprend une matrice à trajectoire tortueuse.
     
    8. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit modificateur de surface est choisi parmi l'or nanométrique, le platine nanométrique, l'or nanométrique en combinaison avec au moins un oxyde métallique, le dioxyde de titane, le dioxyde de titane en combinaison avec au moins un autre oxyde métallique, l'oxyde ferrique, l'oxyde ferrique en combinaison avec au moins un autre oxyde métallique, et leurs combinaisons.
     
    9. Procédé selon la revendication 8, dans lequel ledit modificateur de surface est choisi parmi l'or nanométrique, le platine nanométrique, l'or nanométrique en combinaison avec au moins de l'oxyde ferrique ou du dioxyde de titane, le dioxyde de titane, le dioxyde de titane en combinaison avec au moins de l'oxyde ferrique, l'oxyde ferrique et leurs combinaisons.
     
    10. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit échantillon se présente sous la forme d'un fluide.
     
    11. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ladite souche de micro-organisme est choisie parmi les souches de bactéries, de champignons, de levures, de protozoaires, de virus, d'endospores bactériennes et leurs combinaisons.
     
    12. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ladite matrice de polymère poreux fritté comprend une matrice de polyéthylène fritté à trajectoire tortueuse dans lequel le modificateur de surface est choisi parmi l'or nanométrique, le platine nanométrique, l'or nanométrique en combinaison avec au moins de l'oxyde ferrique ou du dioxyde de titane, le dioxyde de titane, le dioxyde de titane en combinaison avec au moins de l'oxyde ferrique, l'oxyde ferrique et leurs combinaisons ; dans lequel échantillon est un échantillon fluide comprenant au moins une souche de micro-organisme choisie parmi les bactéries, les levures, les virus, les endospores bactériennes et leurs combinaisons ; et dans lequel le dispositif de concentration est contacté avec l'échantillon en passant l'échantillon par le dispositif de concentration.
     
    13. Dispositif de concentration comprenant une matrice de polymère poreux fritté comprenant au moins un agent de concentration qui comprend des terres de diatomées portant, sur au moins une partie de leur surface, un traitement de surface comprenant un modificateur de surface comprenant de l'oxyde ferrique, du dioxyde de titane, de l'or ou du platine nanométrique ou une de leurs combinaisons, dans lequel ledit au moins un agent de concentration a un potentiel zêta négatif à pH 7.
     




    Drawing






    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description