Toronto: The deadly E. coli bacteria in drinking water can now be easily detected. Researchers, including one of Indian origin, have developed a device that can dramatically reduce the time and cost required for detecting the E. coli [Escherichia coli].
Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention.
Ushanta Mitra, professor at York University in Toronto, said that they have developed a hydrogel based rapid E. coli detection system that will turn red when E. coli is present.It will detect the bacteria right at the water source before people start drinking contaminated water, Mitra added.
The new technology can cut down the time taken to detect E. coli from a few days to just a couple of hours.This can be a milestone invention that can help to prevent many contaminated diseases.
It is also an inexpensive way to test drinking water,Rs.155 per test estimated, which is a boon for many developing countries, the researchers said. This low expense invention can be used in many rural areas , where contaminated water is a major concern in spreading several diseases.
This is a significant improvement over the earlier version of the device, the Mobile Water Kit, that required more steps, handling of liquid chemicals and so on, Mitra noted.The entire system is developed using a readily available plunger-tube assembly. It’s so user-friendly that even an untrained person can do the test using this kit, he added.
Traditional methods of testing for E. coli contamination involves collecting water samples to send to an appropriate microbiological lab where the bacteria is cultured before a plate count is done to detect E. coli presence.This takes long time to eliminate the bacteria as we need to wait for test results. This time period favors the bacteria to rapidly multiply and contaminate the water sources more thus adding to the complication.
The testing device is based on porous hydrogel matrix, developed by Mitra’s team at his Micro & Nano-scale Transport Laboratory that cages specific enzymatic substrates that release certain enzymes in E. coli cells.These enzymes then chemically react with the substrates to change colour. If there is no E. coli, the colour of the hydrogel won’t change, as there is no chemical reaction.
The results of the water test can be instantly broadcast using a mobile app already developed by the team.
This feature adds color to the discovery.