Nav: Home

Viruses discern, destroy E. coli in drinking water

September 27, 2018

ITHACA, N.Y. - To rapidly detect the presence of E. coli in drinking water, Cornell University food scientists now can employ a bacteriophage - a genetically engineered virus - in a test used in hard-to-reach areas around the world.

Rather than sending water samples to laboratories and waiting days for results, this new test can be administered locally to obtain answers within hours, according to new research published by The Royal Society of Chemistry, August 2018.

"Drinking water contaminated with E. coli is a major public health concern," said Sam Nugen, Ph.D., Cornell associate professor of food science. "These phages can detect their host bacteria in sensitive situations, which means we can provide low-cost bacteria detection assays for field use - like food safety, animal health, bio-threat detection and medical diagnostics."

The bacteriophage T7NLC carries a gene for an enzyme NLuc luciferase, similar to the protein that gives fireflies radiance. The luciferase is fused to a carbohydrate (sugar) binder, so that when the bacteriophage finds the E. coli in water, an infection starts, and the fusion enzyme is made. When released, the enzyme sticks to cellulose fibers and begins to luminesce.

After the bacteriophage binds to the E. coli, the phage shoots its DNA into the bacteria. "That is the beginning of the end for the E. coli," said Nugen. The bacteriophage then lyses (breaks open) the bacterium, releasing the enzyme as well as additional phages to attack other E. coli.

Said Nugen: "This bacteriophage detects an indicator. If the test determines the presence of E. coli, then you should not be drinking the water, because it indicates possible fecal contamination."

First author Troy Hinkley, a Cornell doctoral candidate in the field of food science, is working as an intern with Intellectual Ventures/Global Good, a group that focuses on philanthropic, humanitarian scientific research, to further develop this bacteriophage.

Describing the importance of phage-based detection technology, Hinkley said, "Global Good invents and implements technologies to improve the lives of people in the developing world. Unfortunately, improper sanitation of drinking water leads to a large number of preventable diseases worldwide.

"Phage-based detection technologies have the potential to rapidly determine if a water source is safe to drink, a result that serves to immediately improve the quality of life of those in the community through the prevention of disease," he said.
-end-
The paper, "Reporter Bacteriophage T7NLC Utilizes a Novel NanoLuc::CBM Fusion for the Ultrasensitive Detection of Escherichia coli in Water," was also authored by Spencer Garing and Anne-Laure Le Ny, Kevin Nichols B.S., M. Eng, Intellectual Ventures /Global Good; Sangita Singh, Joey Talbert Ph.D., Iowa State University; and Joseph Peters, Cornell.

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Global Good.

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

Cornell University

Related Bacteria Articles:

Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.
Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.
Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.
Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.
Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.
How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?
Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.
Bacteria uses viral weapon against other bacteria
Bacterial cells use both a virus -- traditionally thought to be an enemy -- and a prehistoric viral protein to kill other bacteria that competes with it for food according to an international team of researchers who believe this has potential implications for future infectious disease treatment.
Drug diversity in bacteria
Bacteria produce a cocktail of various bioactive natural products in order to survive in hostile environments with competing (micro)organisms.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.