Health and Medicine Technology

E. Coli in Drinking Water Killed by Paper Strips Laced with Sugar

Cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified at 10,000 times.
Cluster of E. coli bacteria, magnified at 10,000 times.

Researchers at York’s Lassonde School’s Micro and Nano-scale Transport (MNT) Lab led by Sushanta Mitra, have found that paper strips laced with sugar could be a solution to kill E. coli in contaminated water. The strips, dubbed “DipTreat”, will be key to developing a new generation of portable, inexpensive water treatment devices. The human health benefits will be apparent in Canada and around the world.

The group responsible for the development of DipTreat has previously developed a Mobile Water Kit to detect E. coli in contaminated water.

Professor Mitra in the Lassonde School of Engineering heads up the lab and explained that it takes less than two hours to fish, trap and kill E. coli in water by using DipTreat. He added that almost 90 per cent of bacteria was efficiently removed simply by dipping the special paper strip in contaminated water samples.

Paper strips coated with sugar could be the'sweetest' solution , to kill E. coli in contaminated drinking water. (Credit : York University)
Paper strips coated with sugar could be the ‘sweetest’ solution , to kill E. coli in contaminated drinking water. (Credit : York University)

The bacterial cells to be killed are trapped with porous paper strips. An antimicrobial agent extracted from the seeds of the drumstick or horseradish tree (moringa), is then used to do the actual killing. The DipTreat solution for water treatment therefore only uses antimicrobial substances that are naturally available and sugar, resulting in minimal health and environmental impact.

Popular water treatment systems currently use silver nanoparticles and clays. According to Mitra, the long-term impact on human health of these products is however not yet fully understood. DipTreat is thus far only effective in small quantities of water. It could for example be used by someone who is hiking. They could collect a glass of water and dip the paper strips in it to purify it before drinking. Researchers are of the opinion that the invention could lead to much greater applications.

Mitra expects that the fish, trap and kill approach to E.coli will seamlessly eliminate the harmful bacteria from water. He believes he impact it could have will be huge on both the national and global health scenarios.

Study has been published in Environ. Sci.: Water Res. Technol.

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