Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Message in a bottle could save lives in the Third World

06.07.2006
A little water sampling bottle that warns people when their drinking water is contaminated could help save the lives of thousands of people in the Third World.

The device is the brainchild of Northumbria University PhD student Puja Tandon.

The bottle is fitted with a special chemical system that alerts people when sewage bacteria such as E. coli are present in drinking water. Such bacteria indicate the risk of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, which still kills several million children under-five in developing countries every year.

The bottle contains a dried mixture of all of the nutrients required to help these bacteria grow – under conditions similar to those in the human gut – along with a chemical indicator that changes colour (to black) if E. coli is present. A sample of water is taken directly into the bottle and then placed in a dark room overnight. The next day if the water has turned black, it means that it is contaminated and should not be drunk without treatment.

Puja says: “If the water is black then there are simple methods of killing the bacteria. People can either leave it in a clear bottle in direct sunlight for five to six hours and the sunlight will kill the organisms, or they can store the water in copper vessels for 48 hours which effectively sanitises the water. Boiling is another alternative, but only where there is sufficient fuelwood.’’

As part of her research Puja has also discovered that when water is stored in brass, minute traces of copper dissolve in the water, inactivating bacteria such as E. coli in 24-48 hours. The amounts of copper are too small to be toxic to people but they are sufficient to kill the bacteria.

Puja adds: “The problem previously was that people had no way of knowing if their water was safe or not and were playing ‘Russian roulette’ with their lives.’’

Puja, 27, from Punjab in northern India, has spent the last three and a half years researching her subject. She spent nine months each year testing water supplies in the Microbiology Department of Panjab University and the other three months working under the supervision of Professor Rob Reed at Northumbria University in Newcastle.

She calls her device the “coliblack’’ system, after the bacteria it detects and the colour the water becomes when contaminated.

She is now working as a biotechnology lecturer as well as an international co-ordinator at a University in India. However, she hopes to secure additional funding which would allow her to carry out post-doctoral study at Northumbria University and extend her current research.

She adds: “It gives me great satisfaction to know that this work will benefit my fellow countrymen and prevent ill health. I’m hoping to continue my studies as a postdoctoral researcher and then finally to work in India where I can put my knowledge and skills to good use.’’

At the moment she is looking for a cheaper chemical ingredient to use in the system, so that the device can be made affordable for everyone in the Third World.

Professor Rob Reed said: “Puja has been an exemplary student, and her work offers real promise to those in rural India and other developing countries who are at greatest risk from waterborne disease”.

Puja will receive her PhD from Northumbria University at an awards ceremony on Thursday, 20 July.

Katrina Alnikizil | alfa
Further information:
http://www.northumbria.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'
21.08.2018 | University of Rochester

nachricht Protein interaction helps Yersinia cause disease
21.08.2018 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>