Paper strips laced with sugar could be the sweetest solution so far, literally, to kill E. coli in contaminated water. York University researcher Sushanta Mitra says the "DipTreat" discovery will be key to developing a new generation of inexpensive and portable water treatment devices, with human health benefits in Canada and around the world.
DipTreat is the latest innovation by researchers at York's Lassonde School's Micro and Nano-scale Transport (MNT) Lab. The group has previously discovered new ways to detect E. coliin contaminated water using a Mobile Water Kit.
While using porous paper strips to trap the bacterial cells, for killing, the researchers used an antimicrobial agent extracted from the seeds of moringa - commonly known as drumstick or horseradish tree. As a result, the DipTreat solution for water treatment uses only naturally available antimicrobial substances and sugar, with minimal environmental and health impact.
Currently, popular water treatment systems use silver nanoparticles and clays, whose long term impact on human health is yet to be fully understood, according Mitra. So far, DipTreat is effective for small quantities of water. For example, someone who is hiking can collect a glass of water and then dip the paper strips to purify it before drinking. Researchers believe that the invention could lead to a much greater impact.