E. coli, the bug made famous by food poisoning outbreaks, can be used to point the finger of blame at the right culprit when our waterways become polluted. E. coli live in the guts of animals and are already used to indicate whether food and water are contaminated with faecal material. However, according to a recent article in the August 2004 issue of Microbiology Today, the quarterly magazine of the Society for General Microbiology, this work can be extended to use the bugs to detect and find the source of the pollution.
Researchers at the University of Lancaster isolated E. coli bacteria from all the likely sources of pollution (cattle, sheep, donkeys, wild birds, dogs and humans) and then ‘fingerprinted’ the DNA from each isolate to form a unique bar code. The bar codes were all stored in a searchable computer library, which is used to match new samples from contaminated sites.
“This should help to identify sources, prevent contamination and improve health”, explains Dr Keith Jones from the University of Lancaster. “If you isolate E. coli from a contaminated environment it is possible to match the DNA fingerprint with that from different animals in the library. This then tells you which animal sources are responsible for that pollution.”
Faye Jones | alfa
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