Although the EU has high water safety standards, thousands of Europeans fall sick each year from drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites. Identifying the presence of pathogens prior to water consumption is a challenge exacerbated by countless small water suppliers that are difficult to monitor. The EU-funded AQUAVALENS (Protecting the health of Europeans by improving methods for the detection of pathogens in drinking water and water used in food preparation) project is developing accurate tests for rapidly identifying waterborne pathogens. AQUAVALENS is standardising ways to monitor water safety from varying sources like treated drinking water, groundwater or water used to produce food. Importantly, researchers are using cutting-edge science to pinpoint the presence of microbes and parasites while simultaneously determining if they can cause disease. They are doing this by identifying the genes that enable viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogens to cause disease. After developing ways to detect these disease-related genes in the water, their methods will be tested in water treatment systems and in food processing plants. In addition to identifying disease-causing genes, researchers are also developing indicators of faecal pollution in water and, importantly, trace its source. AQUAVALENS data will be used to improve water safety plans and enable a more reliable assessment of risks posed by climate change and emerging pathogens.
Waterborne pathogens, water safety, drinking water, food preparation, faecal pollution