Monsoon brings with it the possibility of flooding and contamination of water in low-lying areas. Researchers at IIT-Kanpur have now developed a simple and cost-effective test kit to detect mixed E.coli bacteria in water within 24 hours at a nominal cost.
Escherichia coli (E.coli) is a bacterial strain commonly found in the intestines of people and animals, the faecal waste of cattle and humans. The most common way this bacteria contaminates water is if there is a leak in sewage pipelines in an area. Consuming water contaminated with E. coli can cause diarrhea, digestive problems, urinary tract infections and vomiting. Worldwide, children have been found to be more vulnerable to diseases caused by this bacteria.
Developed under the Jal Jeevan Mission of the Central Government, the Padmabio E.coli test box comes with two test kits. These kits have recently been made commercially available for Rs.199. The box contains two test tubes, one small and one large – both filled with vials and gels. The water sample is first collected in a large test tube and set aside for 20 h. Thereafter, a small amount of it is transferred to a small test tube and kept for four hours. If the color of the sample in the small test tube changes, it is an indication of the presence of E. coli.
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“Water testing for E. coli can be done by anyone and does not require specific laboratory skills. An individual sample analysis can be deployed anywhere,” said Indra Shekhar Sen, associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at IIT-Kanpur. he said.
One of the advantages of this kit is that it only detects biomarkers secreted by E.coli bacteria and does not change color to the presence of other bacteria commonly found in tropical soil or water. Therefore, tests can be more accurate, with almost zero false positives reporting.
Researchers have gone a step further by providing a digital platform to input results from specific geographic locations. Earth Face Flow Android application will allow agencies planning large scale testing to report test results in real time, thus helping to initiate quick measures and prevent such quality-compromised areas in the affected areas. This will help prevent further contamination of the drained water. The digital platform further allows monitoring of bulk testing boxes sent, geo-tagged usage and receiving results – all of which will make the process transparent.