Clean water-treatment option targets sporadic outbreaks

Clean water-treatment option targets sporadic outbreaks
Graphic illustrates the process by which David Wendell's protein-based photocatalyst uses light to generate hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria and viruses in water. Credit: David Wendell

A University of Cincinnati scientist has engineered an environmentally friendly technology to zap outbreak-causing viruses and bacteria from public drinking water.

Environmental and biomedical engineer David Wendell, an associate professor in UC's College of Engineering and Applied Science, developed a protein-based photocatalyst that uses light to generate hydrogen peroxide to eliminate E. coli, Listeria, and potentially protozoa like giardia and cryptosporidium.

If mass produced, he predicts this protein (called StrepMiniSog) could be used to safely "spike" the in the event of an outbreak.

"We designed this protein to attach to pathogens of interest using antibodies, so that when the attached photocatalyst is exposed to light it generates and kills the pathogen," said Wendell.

Importantly, Wendell points out that this technology neutralizes viruses and in water without adding troublesome contaminants—such as antibiotics or disinfection by-products—to the environment.

"In the environment or engineered systems there are many bacteria that you want to preserve," he said. "We need a disinfectant that can ignore helpful bacteria while neutralizing pathogens responsible for sporadic outbreaks. It is essentially a seek-and-destroy technology where it will only attach to the organisms of interest. By using a selective approach we can preserve existing microbiomes, which makes them more resistance to opportunistic pathogens."

Wendell said current methodologies for treating outbreaks involve increasing chlorine concentrations at , but too much chlorine can produce other types of water contamination, commonly referred to as disinfection byproducts (which are regulated by the EPA) and certain bacteria—Legionella for example—are gaining resistance to Chlorine. .

Wendell received a $500,000 grant as part of an NSF CAREER Award earlier this year to develop a mass-production system for his protein-based photocatalyst.

"I think it is feasible to have a mass-production technology in less than five years," Wendell said.

His recent publication in the journal PLOS ONE was titled "Selective Photocatalytic Disinfection by Coupling StrepMiniSog to the Antibody Catalyzed Water Oxidation Pathway" and was written in conjunction with former graduate student Elizabeth Wurtzler.

Beyond the potential use in water treatment, Wendell adds that the technology could also be used as a personal disinfectant product. And unlike antibacterial products (which kill all types of bacteria, including helpful types) his would target only harmful pathogens.

"The technology is also very useful for any sort of surface disinfection, including treating human skin," said Wendell.


Explore further

Team uses solar-powered proteins to filter harmful antibiotics from water

More information: Elizabeth M. Wurtzler et al, Selective Photocatalytic Disinfection by Coupling StrepMiniSog to the Antibody Catalyzed Water Oxidation Pathway, PLOS ONE (2016). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0162577
Journal information: PLoS ONE

Citation: Clean water-treatment option targets sporadic outbreaks (2016, October 5) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-10-water-treatment-option-sporadic-outbreaks.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more