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New method monitors critical bacteria in wastewater treatment
Date:2/4/2009

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have developed a new technique using sensors to constantly monitor the health of bacteria critical to wastewater treatment facilities and have verified a theory that copper is vital to the proper functioning of a key enzyme in the bacteria.

The new method senses minute changes in chemistry related to bacterial health and yields results immediately, unlike conventional technologies, which require laboratory analyses taking at least a day. This immediacy could make it possible to detect when bacteria are about to stop processing waste and correct the problem before toxins are released into waterways, said Eric McLamore, a postdoctoral research associate in civil engineering.

The technique also is a departure from conventional methods because established techniques require that bacterial "biofilms" be damaged or destroyed in order to be tested.

"It's important to monitor intact living specimens to obtain accurate data, and our approach is both non-invasive and a real-time technique," said Marshall Porterfield, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

Findings will be detailed in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering. McLamore, Porterfield and M. Katherine Banks, head of the School of Civil Engineering and a professor of civil engineering, wrote the paper, which is being highlighted in the journal's "spotlight" section.

The biofilms are a matrix of wastewater-treatment organisms that coat natural or synthetic surfaces. A healthy population of the bacteria must be maintained for wastewater treatment facilities to operate properly, McLamore said.

The researchers used the method to study a type of bacterium called Nitrosomonas europaea. The microorganisms are referred to as nitrifying bacteria because they convert toxic ammonia from human wastes and fertilizer runoff into compounds called nitrites, which are further b
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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