ASU researchers develop DNA-based probes to sniff pathogens in drinking water


With billions having no access to pure drinking water and no means to check whether the scarce reserves carry potable water, the condition of people living in underdeveloped regions of the world needs immediate attention. A group of undergraduate students from the Arizona State University are coming up with a possible solution in the form of a low-cost sensor that can detect the presence of disease causing pathogens and bacteria in water available for drinking.

Designed for the 2012 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), the biosensor is based on DNA structure, enabling it to sniff the presence of pathogens and disease causing bacteria in water. The low-cost device, which is designed to be used in the field not just in a laboratory, will be able to detect pathogenic bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella and E-coli in water samples.

The team is working on two biosensor designs, where the first one matches DNA sequences to match a specific DNA, the second design tests the membranes of bacteria,  which changes the color of the samples to blue on the detection of a special protein attached to a bacterial membrane.

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