Navigation Links
UCLA engineers develop faster method to detect bacterial contamination in coastal waters

Currently, beachgoers are informed about water-quality conditions based on results from the previous day's sample. Scientists must collect samples in the field, then return to a lab to culture them for analysis a process that takes a minimum of 24 hours.

Now, engineers from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have sped up the process of analyzing bacterial concentrations to under one hour, through the development of a new in-field, rapid-detection method.

Since bacteria levels can change quickly in the water column, a one-day turnaround time simply isn't fast enough to adequately protect swimmers or prevent unnecessary beach closures, the engineers say.

This issue is especially pertinent in California, where gastrointestinal illness that can result from contact with contaminated beach waters has been estimated to cost Orange and Los Angeles county beach visitors between $21 million and $51 million per year in sick days and related issues.

Furthermore, California coastlines are subject to chronic water pollution problems due to sewage spills and urban runoff. Rainstorms in Southern California can further exacerbate this problem, as pollutants that have accumulated over time on street surfaces are suddenly flushed into our waterways and into the ocean.

Jenny Jay, UCLA associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Ph.D. student Christine Lee have advanced and tested a rapid method in marine and freshwater samples from beaches in Malibu and Santa Monica. To their knowledge, it is among the first viable in-field methods for rapid, portable fecal bacteria analysis. This research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Applied Microbiology and is currently available online.

Even for areas like the Southern California coast, which are close to state-of-the-art laboratories, transportation time, coupled with lab work, may mean that results often are not ready until the next day. With such a delay between sampling and results, the results may no longer be relevant due to the dynamic nature of water quality in beach environments.

The new rapid method represents a field-portable alternative to more expensive procedures, particularly where larger-scale, expensive equipment is not readily accessible. To decrease the time to determine results, the researchers have outfitted a portable kit to test samples for bacterial concentrations.

"We envision a tool that can be used by lifeguards to collect and analyze water samples throughout the day, providing beachgoers with up-to-date, near-real-time data on water conditions," Lee said. "This could also be useful in determining persistence of a bacterial contaminant after a pollution event, such as a sewage spill or a septic tank leaking."

"We are currently applying this method, in a new approach, to identifying contamination sources in which we can adaptively sample the environment in order to hone in on hotspots," Jay said.

The process uses magnetic beads conjugated to specific antibodies that identify and bind fecal bacteria that are used as standards for determining the safety of recreational waters, such as E. coli and Enterococcus.

After a few filtration and isolation steps, the sample organisms are lysed and treated with an enzyme that catalyzes a light-emitting reaction with target ATP, the energy currency of a cell. Cells break down ATP to obtain energy important for cellular processes.

Scientists can then determine bacterial concentrations based on how much light is released by using a luminometer, a device that detects light emissions.

The process is called covalently linked immunomagnetic separation/adenosine triphosphate quantification technique (Cov-IMS/ATP).

The paper's other co-authors are UCLA electrical engineering professor William Kaiser and John Griffith, Ph.D., a senior microbiologist with the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project.

For the Southern California coast, using this detection method could significantly inform source-tracking practices.

"UCLA's rapid-method work is very exciting," said Mark Gold, D.Env., president of the environmental group Heal the Bay. "It could result in faster notification of the public on the health risks of swimming at contaminated beaches and better protection of public health."


Contact: Matthew Chin
University of California - Los Angeles

Related biology news :

1. Bioengineers at University of Pennsylvania devise nanoscale system to measure cellular forces
2. Princeton engineers develop low-cost recipe for patterning microchips
3. UCR engineers to develop new tool to measure how environmental exposures affect health
4. Boston University biomedical engineers find chink in bacterias armor
5. CU researcher engineers sorghum that grows in poisonous soils
6. Institution of Chemical Engineers chooses Elsevier as publishing partner
7. Engineers study brain folding in higher mammals
8. Nanoengineers mine tiny diamonds for drug delivery
9. President honors mentors of scientists and engineers
10. Penn engineers create carbon nanopipettes that are smaller than cells and measure electric current
11. Elephant engineers
Post Your Comments:
(Date:5/9/2016)... UAE, May 9, 2016 Elevay ... comes to expanding freedom for high net worth professionals ... in today,s globally connected world, there is still no ... could ever duplicate sealing your deal with a firm ... passports by taking advantage of citizenship via investment programs ...
(Date:4/26/2016)... , April 27, 2016 ... "Global Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to their ... , The analysts forecast the global ... of 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  ... of sectors such as the healthcare, BFSI, transportation, ...
(Date:4/13/2016)... April 13, 2016  IMPOWER physicians supporting Medicaid patients ... a new clinical standard in telehealth thanks to a ... the higi platform, IMPOWER patients can routinely track key ... body mass index, and, when they opt in, share ... visit to a local retail location at no cost. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... 27, 2016  Alex,s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), a ... will open a state-of-the-art bioinformatics lab, using ,big data, ... announcement comes as Liz Scott , co-executive director ... Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. , ... participant and advocate of pediatric cancer research and awareness. ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... June 27, 2016  Global demand for enzymes ... through 2020 to $7.2 billion.  This market includes ... cleaning products, biofuel production, animal feed, and other ... and biocatalysts). Food and beverages will remain the ... increasing consumption of products containing enzymes in developing ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... GUELPH, ON , June 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - BIOREM ... it has been advised by its major shareholders, Clean ... LP, United States based venture ... common shares of Biorem (on a fully diluted, as ... for the disposition of their entire equity holdings in ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... 2016  Sequenom, Inc. (NASDAQ: SQNM ), ... through the development of innovative products and services, announced ... United States denied its petition to review ... Sequenom,s U.S. Patent No. 6,258,540 (",540 Patent") are not ... the Supreme Court,s Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories ...
Breaking Biology Technology: