- We present a new platform for visual and spectroscopic detection of bacteria. The detection scheme is based on the interaction of membrane-active compounds secreted by bacteria with agar-embedded nanoparticles comprising phospholipids and the chromatic polymer polydiacetylene (PDA). We demonstrate that PDA undergoes dramatic visible blue-to-red transformations together with an intense fluorescence emission that are induced by molecules released by multiplying bacteria. The chromatic transitions are easily identified by the naked eye and can also be recorded by conventional high-throughput screening instruments. Furthermore, the color and fluorescence changes generally occur in shorter times than the visual appearance of bacterial colonies on the agar. The chromatic technology is generic and simple, does not require identification a priori of specific bacterial recognition elements, and can be applied for detection of both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. We demonstrate applications of the new platform for reporting on bacterial contaminations in foods and for screening for bacterial antibiotic resistance.