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A New Water Monitoring Device Provides Quick Detection of Deadly Bacteria

A new microbial detection device will help water distribution networks speed up the process of measuring their infection. This will lead to significant savings in critical financial resources.

Transmissible infectious diseases are a major problem for human health. Contaminated water can lead to diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and poliomyelitis. Drinking water is estimated to cause 502,000 deaths due to diarrhea each year, according to the World Health Organization. This is why rapid detection of microbes and bacteria in water is considered vital.

A team of researchers financially supported by the European Union through funding has created WaterSpy, a device for monitoring tap water in real time. It was a portable water quality analyzer based on the laser that can be used in critical locations in water distribution networks. It can provide safe reading in a few hours rather than in days as usual in traditional ways, helping water services, public authorities and regulators save time and money.

The prototype is ready and the team will test it at two locations in Genoa, Prato’s water treatment plant (a small town in Tuscany) and the entrance to Genoa’s water distribution network.

WaterSpy will focus on tracking three of the most deadly bacterial strains: Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As explained in a press release on the project website, these bacteria are often difficult to identify, as the concentration of contaminants can be low.

The current procedure to date involves taking water samples and sending it to a remote lab, it also takes at least another 24 hours to allow microbiologists to locate these bacteria. As a result, a full resolution may take up to 2-3 days. However, the research team says that this whole process will take place in just 6 hours, about 12 times faster than the current standard.

WaterSpy is based on laser, photodetectors and ultrasounds. The same press release explains: “Initially it works by first collecting small traces of bacteria and then using the laser to locate them.” The ultrasound is used to collect the bacteria in the water sample to enhance detection and sensitivity. Then a measurement technique called attenuated total reflex is used, allowing the sample to be examined directly in its liquid state. Infrared beams (IR) are sent to a diamond over which water flows. ”

The WaterSpy handheld device, which is essentially a high sensitivity water analyzer device, was created to develop water-quality photonic analysis technology that is suitable for electronic measurements. According to the group, WaterSpy technology is relatively inexpensive and complies with the stringent European Union requirements regarding susceptibility levels for bacterial detection following the new regulations on drinking water.

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