Throughout the last decade, the expansion of food testing has been gradually moving towards ordinary high throughput screening methods performed on-site. The demand for point-of-care testing, able to distinguish molecular signatures with high accuracy, sensitivity and specificity has been significantly increasing. This new requirement relies on the on-site detection and monitorization of molecular signatures suitable for the surveillance of food production and processing. The widespread use of antibiotics has contributed to disease control of livestock but has also created problems for the dairy industry and consumers. Its therapeutic and subtherapeutic use has increased the risk of contamination in milk in enough concentrations to cause economic losses to the dairy industry and have a health impact in highly sensitive individuals. This study focuses on the development of a simple Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) method for fast high throughput screening of tetracycline (TET) in milk. For this, we integrate a paper-based low-cost, fully recyclable and highly stable SERS platform, with a minimal sample preparation protocol. A two-microliter sample of milk solutions spiked with TET (from 0.01 to 1000 ppm) is dried on a silver nanoparticle coated cardboard substrate and measured via a Raman spectrophotometer. The SERS substrate showed to be extremely stable with a shelf life of several months. A global spectrum principal component analysis approach was used to test all the detected vibrational modes and their correlation with TET concentration. Peak intensity ratios (455 cm−1/1280 cm−1 and 874 cm−1/1397 cm−1) were found to be correlated with TET concentrations in milk, achieving a sensitivity as low as 0.1 ppm. Results indicate that this SERS method combined with portable Raman spectrometer is a potential tool that can be used on-site for the monitoring of TET residues and other antibiotics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17922
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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