A Sweet Solution to Removing E. coli From Drinking Water


York’s Lassonde School’s Micro and Nano-scale Transport (MNT) Lab researchers have discovered “DipTreat,” a water treatment device capable of detecting and removing E. coli from drinking water.

Researchers at York’s Lassonde School’s Micro and Nano-scale Transport (MNT) Lab have reportedly found a portable and cost-effective way to remove Escherichia coli (E. coli) from drinking water, and the solution is a sweet one. The answer lies in the discovery of “DipTreat,” what the MNT Lab dubs as an “innovative solution for water treatment,” that uses porous paper strips and sugar to “fish, trap, and kill” the deadly contaminant.

This is not the first time that the MNT Lab has made a breakthrough in the fight against E. coli. Previous to this, researchers from the lab discovered a way to quickly and effectively detect E. coli in drinking water. Their detection system was able to decrease the detection time to discover the contaminant in water significantly by producing results at the source within a couple of hours, instead of having to send the sample to a lab for results, which could take a few days.

Now, the researchers have taken this detection a step further. The head of the lab, Sushanta Mitra, PhD, professor at the Lassonde School of Engineering, explained in a press release, “[W]ith Diptreat, we have learned it will take less than two hours to fish, trap, and kill E. coli in water. We were able to efficiently remove almost 90% of bacteria by dipping the special paper strip, DipTreat, in contaminated water samples.”

This innovative solution uses D-glucose, a naturally-occurring sugar, and bactericidal Moringa oleifera catatonic protein (MOCP), that comes from the drumstick/horseradish tree. DipTreat may offer a safer alternative to current water treatment methods that use clays and silver nanoparticles, materials that have unknown long-term health implications.

How does it work? By absorbing sugar into the paper strips and placing them into the contaminated water, the strips will essentially “fish” for the harmful cells as the sugar induces a response within the E. coli bacteria that will attract it to the D-glucose. The porous nature of the paper strips allows them to “trap” the cells “within its porous network,” according to the study. The paper strips that have absorbed the MOCP act as an antimicrobial and work to “kill” the bacteria.These strips are glued together to make a treatment system, with the sugar-absorbed strips placed on the top and the bottom and the antimicrobial MOCP strip placed in the middle.

DipTreat is currently most effective with detecting E. coli in smaller amounts of water; however, researchers feel that this discovery can impact water treatment on a larger, global scale.

When speaking of the implications of this discovery, Dr. Mitra said, “We expect this new approach to ‘fish, ‘trap,’ and ‘kill’ E. coli will seamlessly eliminate the harmful bacteria from water.” The need for clean water is a global priority. To this end, The United Nations Children's Fund has invited Dr. Mitra and his team to share their findings at a stakeholder meeting on November 22.

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