Community sewage sensors towards evaluation of drug use trends: detection of cocaine in wastewater with DNA-directed immobilization aptamer sensors

Zhugen Yang, Erika Castrignano, Pedro Estrela, Christopher Frost, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


Illicit drug use has a global concern and effective monitoring and interventions is highly required to combat drug abuse. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is an innovative and cost-effective approach to evaluate community-wide drug use trends, compared to traditional population surveys. Here we report for the first time, a novel quantitative community sewage sensor (namely DNA-directed immobilization of aptamer sensors, DDIAS) for rapid and cost-effective estimation of cocaine use trends via WBE. Thiolated single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) probe was hybridized with aptamer ssDNA in solution, followed by co-immobilization with 6-mercapto-hexane onto the gold electrodes to control the surface density to effectively bind with cocaine. DDIAS was optimized to detect cocaine at as low as 10 nM with a dynamic range from 10 nM to 5 μM, which were further employed for the quantification of cocaine in wastewater samples collected from a wastewater treatment plant in seven consecutive days. The concentration pattern of the sampling week is comparable with that from mass spectrometry. Our results demonstrate that the developed DDIAS can be used as community sewage sensors for rapid and cost-effective evaluation of drug use trends, and potentially implemented as a powerful tool for on-site and real-time monitoring of wastewater by un-skilled personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Article number21024
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2016


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