Traditionally, biosensor development has focused on molecules with a defined metabolic role that can be exploited by enzyme-based systems. Antibodies have the ability to move beyond this range of analytes, and are particularly useful in detecting small, hapten molecules. Electrochemically based biosensor developments have been less fruitful in this regard, as enzyme labelling is required, and such assays require the separation from bound and unbound species. These separations and the removal of background signals result in the increased complexity of the assay format, making it unsuitable for rapid sensor analysis. We have developed an electrochemical sensor based on anti-bodies that does not require the separation of bound and unbound molecules in a competition immunoassay format. This removes the need for several washing and separation steps as is normally employed in this type of assay. This allows single-step immunoassays to be performed using this system, and also allows for the real-time monitoring of antibody—antigen interactions. We have shown that such assays are possible in both batch and flow-injection formats and we are currently developing an assay for the pesticide atrazine. Tentative results show that analysis with this system is possible in the p.p.m. to p.p.b. range.

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