HAMILTON, ON, April 30, 2012 Urban beach closures due to coliform outbreaks have become disturbing signs of summer, yet water-testing technology has never been fast enough to keep up with changing conditions, nor accessible enough to check all waters.
Now, researchers at McMaster University have developed a rapid testing method using a simple paper strip that can detect E. coli in recreational water within minutes. The new tool can close the gap between outbreak and detection, improving public safety.
Scientists from the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network have created and validated the viability of the test strip, which can detect potentially harmful concentrations of E. coli in water quickly and simply, with much greater accuracy than existing portable technology.
The work is described in a paper published online in the journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.
"Coliforms are always a big problem," says the paper's lead author John Brennan, a McMaster chemistry professor who holds the Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry. "The methods used to detect outbreaks are slow, and tend not to be portable, as they often need a lab-based amplification step prior to testing, causing a time lag between an outbreak and a beach closure."
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada funds Sentinel, a strategic research network that spans the country and is based at McMaster. Several dozen researchers are involved in its initiatives.
Bioactive paper is both old and new, Brennan explains. Since the late1950s, physicians have been using bioactive paper to test for glucose in urine. In the last several years, the area has expanded quickly and research has become very competitive as scientists work on new applications.
"It's always a race," Brennan says.
The new strips are coated with chemicals that react to the bacteria, and are printed using inkjet technol
|Contact: Wade Hemsworth|