Tethered lipid bilayers, containing a transmembrane synthetic ligand-gated ion channel (SLIC), have been formed on gold surfaces. The SLIC was designed as a highly selective receptor and reporter protein to detect antibodies in whole blood, which are of importance in malaria diagnosis. The specific binding of the antibody to the sensor surface was monitored on-line with label-free surface-sensitive techniques either optically by surface plasmon resonance in whole blood or electrically by measuring the channel activity of SLIC in blood serum. We demonstrate the feasibility of a highly sensitive and easily applicable whole blood biosensor on the basis of simple commercially available components. The sensor might find applications in the field of infectious diseases such as point-of-care diagnostics of malaria, high content quality control of blood samples of donors, or monitoring the efficacy of vaccination. (C) 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.