A fast, specific and sensitive homogeneous assay for Staphylococcus aureus detection was developed by measuring the activity of secreted nuclease from the bacteria via a modified DNA oligonucleotide. As biosensor format, an effective system, Nanokeepers as previously reported, were used for triggered release of confined fluorophores, and hence specific detection of S. aureus on nuclease activity was obtained. The interference from blood components for fluorescent quantification was eliminated by a pre purification by aptamer-functionalized silica magnetic nanoparticles. The reported assay system was exclusively formed by nucleic acid oligos and magnetic or mesoporous silica nanoparticles, that can be used on blood samples in a stepwise manner. The assay was successfully used as a sensing platform for the specific detection of S. aureus cells as low as 682 CFU in whole blood. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.