Engineering doctoral student George Luka says there is an urgent need to develop a fast, flexible, accurate and real-time detection tool to meet the challenge of protecting water consumers. (UBC photo)

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

A handheld ‘tricorder’ that can test for biological contamination in real-time has been the dream of science fiction fans for decades.

And UBC Okanagan engineers say the technology is closer to science fact than ever before.

Using a small and inexpensive biosensor, researchers in the School of Engineering have developed a novel low-cost technique that quickly and accurately detects cryptosporidium contamination in water samples.

Cryptosporidium is an intestinal pathogen and one of the leading causes of respiratory and gastrointestinal illness in the world. Drinking water contaminated with the parasite can result in diarrhea and, in extreme cases, can even lead to death.

“Current methods for detecting cryptosporidium require filtering large volumes of water, separating out the organisms, staining them with a fluorescence label and trying to identify the pathogen using a microscope,” says George Luka, a doctoral student at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and the study’s lead author. “The process is extremely slow, expensive and doesn’t yield reliable results.”

Related: Interior Health launches water advisory app

Related: Private well users urged to protect drinking water

Luka says there is an urgent need to develop a fast, flexible, accurate and real-time detection tool to meet the challenge of protecting water consumers from this common and potentially dangerous contaminant.

To solve this problem, Luka and his colleagues tested a specially designed and calibrated biosensor. Using varying concentrations of the pathogen in water samples, they were able to establish its ability to detect cryptosporidium contamination.

“The biosensor performed exactly as we were hoping and was able to measure cryptosporidium contamination rapidly and without the need for complex preparations and highly-trained technicians,” says Luka. “This is an impressive solution that can easily be integrated into inexpensive and portable devices to test drinking water in real-time anywhere in the world.”

Luka also says the biosensor can be expanded to measure other biomarkers and hazards.

“The technology has real potential to be used to test all kinds of biological contamination, both in medical and environmental applications. A handheld sensor that tests the safety of our water and our environment could soon become a reality.”

The research was published recently in the journal Sensors and was funded by the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS).


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

SUV on fire on Highway 1 between Abbotsford and Chilliwack

Emergency crews on scene and blocking the right lane

VIDEO: Abbotsford donair restaurant catches fire

Donairo’s on McCallum Street site of kitchen fire

PHOTOS: Candlelight Parade lights up downtown Mission

Thousands of people come out to enjoy holiday tradition

It’s a Wonderful Breakfast fundraiser comes to Mission

The event, on Dec. 12, is hosted by the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Widespread concerns spur UFV to halt international enrolment growth

New target hopes to limit international students to 20% of all enrolment to give time to ‘catch up’

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Strong turnout of volunteers to search for missing senior

Ted Vanderveen disappeared in rural Maple Ridge on Nov. 28

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

SkyTrain strike to begin Tuesday with ‘full shutdown’, CUPE says

BCRTC president says job action is ‘completely unacceptable’ to use SkyTrain users ‘as leverage’

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

Owners of hotels on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside fight $1 expropriation in court

Vancouver City Council voted to expropriate the properties for $1 each in November

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

B.C. pharmaceutical company’s stocks double in value after successful lupus drug trial

More than 40 per cent of patients using voclosporin saw improvements in kidney function

Most Read