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A sweet solution to E. coli in drinking water

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Paper strips laced with sugar can kill E. coli in contaminated water. York University researcher Sushanta Mitra says the "DipTreat" discovery will be essential to the development of a new generation of inexpensive and portable water treatment devices.

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. coli in contaminated water using a Mobile Water Kit.

"Now with DipTreat, we have learned it will take less than two hours to fish, trap and kill E. coli in water," says Professor Mitra in the Lassonde School of Engineering, who heads up the lab. "We were able to efficiently remove almost 90% of bacteria by dipping the special paper strip, DipTreat, in contaminated water samples."

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 effects on health and the environment.

Currently, popular water treatment systems use silver nanoparticles and clays, whose long-term effect 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. The researchers believe the invention could eventually be used on a larger scale and, therefore, play a greater role worldwide. 

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