Skip to main content

Event Category

Event

Article available in the folowing languages:

AQUALITY - Online industrial water quality analysis system for rapid and accurate detection of pathogens

The AQUALITY project proposes to develop an online water monitoring device for microbiological contamination analysis, that allows industries and environmental protection agencies to replace the routine activities of sampling and laboratory testing of pathogens by means of a novel approach based on the use of engineered liposomes for detecting bacteria in water.

1 December 2011 - 28 February 2014
Austria

Water quality and safety can never be taken for granted.
Every day, millions of tons of inadequately treated sewage, industrial and agricultural wastes are poured into the world’s waters, with lakes, rivers, and oceans taking in the equivalent of the weight of the entire human population in the form of pollution.

As for the industrial world, it is well known that many industries require huge quantities of water for their processes and need to be supplied by water with specific characteristics, since water quality may seriously affect production units and quality of finished products.

Food industry, but also chemical, pharmaceutical, pulp and paper, micro-electronics, textile, and metal-working industry – for all of them water is of an extreme importance and impacts directly on production performances, operational costs and sustainability.

If we focus only on the food industry, we can see how fresh water contaminated with pathogens used in the preparation of food has been the source of foodborne disease through consumption of the same microorganisms; contaminated food, mainly by pathogenic microorganisms, is estimated to cause 76 million illnesses, 325000 serious illnesses resulting in hospitalisation, and 5000 deaths only in the USA each year. The Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture estimates the medical costs and productivity losses associated with E.coli O157, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Campylobacter alone amount to at least $6.9 billion annually. The situation in Europe appears to be similar to the US: in the UK, for example, foodborne and waterborne illness affected one in every 1000 in 2005, doubling the number of reported cases in 1995.

Currently, the identification and quantification of pollutants in water are mostly carried out manually through sampling and subsequent laboratory analysis (off-line analysis), with methods such culture plating, Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). These methodologies of work involve some significant costs in terms of displacement to sampling points, reagents and specialized personnel dedicated to the operation, leading to time consuming and economically challenging approaches, causing the number of analyses performed to be kept at the bare minimum.

The industry therefore is calling for novel, cost-effective solutions to meet these new challenges: there is an urgent need for rapid methods for detecting the major waterborne pathogens, which can be implemented both online and at laboratory scale; this achievement would represent a huge competitive advantage for the enterprise proposing it and would open up a significant international market.
We propose to develop an online water monitoring device for microbiological contamination analysis, that allows industries and environmental protection agencies to replace the routine activities of sampling and laboratory testing of pathogens.

The new system, which will be produced in two versions, both for online and for offline measurements, will be able to real time monitor the quality of industrial process water and effluents basing on an opto-ultrasonic device and on a lipid-based diagnostic kit.

The novelty of our approach is the use of engineered liposomes for detecting bacteria in water: these are nanoparticles formed by a lipid bilayer enclosing an aqueous compartment displaying features that can be different (pH, ionic strength, composition) with respect to the bulk. We will load liposomes with a chromophore and will engineer them in order to make them specifically react with one target bacteria; this is the simple operating system of the AQUALITY system, which is completed by an ultrasonic unit to concentrate bacteria and an optical unit for detecting the sample colour change following to the interaction between liposomes and bacteria.

The main objective that the AQUALITY Consortium intends to achieve is the development of the first online water monitoring device for microbiological contamination analysis, that allows industries and environmental protection agencies to replace the routine activities of sampling and laboratory testing of pathogens.

The new system will be able to near real time monitor the quality of industrial process water and wastewater using an opto-ultrasonic device and on a lipid-based diagnostic kit. The novelty of our approach is in fact in the use of engineered liposomes for detecting bacteria in water.
By the end of the project, the system will be able to detect the following bacteria strains, selected taking into account the incidence and prevalence of waterborne and foodborne related incidents:
• Staphylococcus aureus,
• Escherichia coli,
• Salmonella Typhimurium,
• Campylobacter jejuni,

Therefore, the tangible outcomes of AQUALITY project will be:
o A new method for rapidly detecting the presence of the afore mentioned bacteria strains in water and wastewater, that relies on the interaction of liposomes with bacteria without specific antigene- antibody interactions;
o The implementation of an opto-ultrasonic unit to concentrate the bacteria and detect the sample colour changes;
o The implementation of this method in a new device, which will be both integrated in the industrial production line (online) and portable for in field measurements (offline);