Toronto researchers have a 'sweet' solution for killing E. coli in drinking water
DipTreat uses glucose to lure E. coli in water to be trapped and killed
Researchers from York University in Toronto have created a product that uses sugar to lure E. coli in drinking water into a deadly trap.
DipTreat uses glucose to fish E. coli from water, traps the bacteria within a porous paper matrix, and kills them using the antimicrobial properties of moringa seed extract — commonly known as drumstick or horseradish tree.
The findings from the study were published in the latest issue of the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Environmental Science Water Research & Technology.
This is not the research group's first time working on water treatment solutions. York's Lassonde School's Micro and Nano-scale Transport (MNT) Lab previously discovered new ways of detecting E. coli in contaminated water using a Mobile Water Kit.
The Mobile Water Kit cuts down the time taken to detect E. coli from 24 to 48 hours to just a couple of hours. It is also an inexpensive way to test drinking water at approximately $3 per test — making it a real alternative for many developing countries as well as cash-strapped remote communities in Canada's North.
Now the team has created a product that can remove almost 90 per cent of bacteria by dipping the special paper strip in contaminated water.
"Our solution is completely environmentally friendly and has no impact on health because we are using natural antimicrobial agents," says Sushanta Mitra, one of the authors of the study and associate vice-president, research at the Lassonde School.
Mitra says DipTreat is "a low cost, frugal innovation with global health benefits."
E. coli are a large group of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some types can make people sick with severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.
Popular water treatment systems use silver nanoparticles and clays, says Mitra, but the long-term health impact of these substances are not yet known.
'Water technology to the masses'
DipTreat can be used by hikers in remote areas for treating an individual container of drinking water, says Mitra. It takes approximately two hours to treat drinking water using the strips.
Mitra also sees community applications for the product, particularly in small remote communities like the ones found in Canada's North. He says the same principle for treating a single glass of water could be applied to a community's drinking water supply using industrial sized sheets of DipTreat.
"The vision of our work is to provide water technology to the masses," says Mitra.
UNICEF has invited Mitra to showcase his team's work at a stakeholder meeting in Copenhagen on Nov. 22. According to UNICEF, an estimated 1.8 billion people still rely on drinking water sources that contain evidence of fecal contamination.
The team has patents for DipTreat in India and and the United States and is working on developing packaging to launch the product for individual consumers.