Keeping our beaches safe: New wireless sensor device rapidly detects E. coli in water samples

Dec 08, 2011

Fecal contamination of public beaches caused by sewage overflow is both dangerous for swimmers and costly for state and local economies. Current methods to detect Escherichia coli, a bacterium highly indicative of the presence of fecal matter in water, typically require 24-48 hours to produce a result. A new, accurate, and economical sensor-based device capable of measuring E. coli levels in water samples in less than 1-8 hours could serve as a valuable early warning tool and is described in an article in Environmental Engineering Science.

The article provides a detailed description of the autonomous, wireless, in-situ (AWISS), battery-powered device, which contains a prototype optical sensor that can measure changes in fluorescence intensity in a water sample. In the presence of E. coli bacteria an enzymatic reaction will cause an increase in fluorescence. The AWISS can detect high concentrations of bacteria in less than 1 hour and lower concentrations in less than 8 hours.

Jeffrey Talley (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD) and colleagues (Environmental Technology Solutions, Gilbert, AZ, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, MS), present the results of a 7-day using the AWISS device. The detection system developed is able to collect and analyze a water sample every 6 hours and to employ to send the data collected to remote monitoring stations. The authors compare the effectiveness of the AWISS to other E. coli detection methods currently approved by the U.S. (EPA).

"Pathogens in the aquatic environment pose significant human and ecological health risks. The work of Professor Talley and his colleagues in developing a remote sensing instrument to detect and transmit pathogen water quality information is a major advance in helping safeguard human health," says Domenico Grasso, PhD, Editor-in-Chief and Vice President for Research, Dean of the Graduate College, University of Vermont (Burlington).

Explore further: Coastal defences could contribute to flooding with sea-level rise

More information: The article is available online at http://www.liebertpub.com/mcontent/files/EES-2011-0148-Nijak_5P.pdf

Provided by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

1 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researcher Develops Sensor to Detect E.coli

Sep 24, 2006

As the Food and Drug Administration takes days to track down the source of the E. coli outbreak, Dr. Raj Mutharasan is optimizing a sensor that can enable growers to do the job themselves in a few minutes.

How good are tests for E. coli in streams?

Sep 22, 2009

Bacteria commonly used to indicate health risks in recreational waters might not be so reliable after all. Pathogenic E. coli were pervasive in stream-water samples with low concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria.

More swimmers means more pathogens in the water

Jul 02, 2007

The levels of potentially harmful waterborne microorganisms in rivers, lakes and other recreational waterways may be highest when the water is most crowded with swimmers. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School ...

E. coli can survive in streambed sediments for months

Jul 01, 2011

Studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have confirmed that the presence of Escherichia coli pathogens in surface waters could result from the pathogen's ability to survive for months in underwater sedime ...

Recommended for you

Tracking giant kelp from space

17 hours ago

Citizen scientists worldwide are invited to take part in marine ecology research, and they won't have to get their feet wet to do it. The Floating Forests project, an initiative spearheaded by scientists ...

Heavy metals and hydroelectricity

19 hours ago

Hydraulic engineering is increasingly relied on for hydroelectricity generation. However, redirecting stream flow can yield unintended consequences. In the August 2014 issue of GSA Today, Donald Rodbell of ...

What's wiping out the Caribbean corals?

19 hours ago

Here's what we know about white-band disease: It has already killed up to 95 percent of the Caribbean's reef-building elkhorn and staghorn corals, and it's caused by an infectious bacteria that seems to be ...

User comments : 0