Clean drinking water is a bare necessity and a basic human right. Yet so many people across the world suffer from water-borne diseases like diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps due to microbes and bacteria in the water which are difficult to detect in a timely manner and thus difficult to treat. E.Coli is one such bacteria which has become a scourge even in place like Canada’s North. This is why a new portable, inexpensive method to detect E.Coli within a few hours is proving to be an innovative solution.
Sushanta Mitra, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering in Toronto has created DipTreat, a product that uses sugar to lure E. coli in drinking water into a deadly trap, according to CBC News. Usual methods to detect the bacteria in water sources take from 24 up to 48 hours during which time a number of people consume the water and fall ill. Public Health officers from India have sought a better and quicker solution. Mitra believes sensors could do the job but are too expensive for people in developing countries who are in desperate need of a cheaper solution.
Mitra’s mobile water kit has a plastic syringe to draw water samples. A porous paper matrix withing the syringe traps the bacteria if present and turns red. It then kills them using the antimicrobial properties of moringa seed extract — commonly known as drumstick or horseradish tree. Mitra told Macleans,
Doctors there (in India) just weren’t able to address all the problems with water-borne diseases, specifically E. coli. From day one, we realized this can’t be a purely esoteric scientific endeavour. We had to rework and redesign an affordable portable solution to rapidly detect E. coli right at the source. We realized an easy solution is the best solution.”
Mitra’s team tested DipTreat in India last year and the findings have been published in the latest issue of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Environmental Science Water Research & Technology. DipTreat is available for $3 making it an inexpensive and portable solution to test water in developing countries and for hikers and travellers to carry with them for testing water. Mitra believes his DipTreat principle can be expanded to industrial sized sheets to test larger bodies of water. UNICEF has invited Mitra to showcase his team’s frugal innovation at a stakeholder meeting in Copenhagen.a