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DNA testing of bacteria could lead to reduced chemical treatment of drinking water


Research has discovered that combinations of bacteria commonly found in water pipes can form a biofilm which enables other potentially more harmful bacteria to thrive.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering are developing DNA testing to identify specific types of bacteria present in drinking water.

The study, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, isolated four types of bacteria and found that in isolation none of them created a biofilm. However, when any of the bacteria were combined with one of the common forms, called Methylobacterium, they formed a biofilm within 72 hours.

“Our findings show that this bacterium is acting as a bridge, enabling other bacteria to attach to surfaces and produce a biofilm and it’s likely that it’s not the only one that plays this role,” says lead researcher, Professor Catherine Biggs.

“This means it should be possible to control or even prevent the creation of biofilms in the water supply by targeting these particular bacteria, potentially reducing the need for high dosage chemical treatments.”

“The way we currently maintain clean water supplies is a little like using antibiotics without knowing what infection we’re treating,” says Professor Biggs. “Although it’s effective, it requires extensive use of chemicals or can put water supplies out of use to consumers for a period of time. Current testing methods also take time to produce results, while the bacteria are cultured from the samples taken.”

“The DNA testing we’re developing will provide a fast and more sophisticated alternative, allowing water companies to fine tune their responses to the exact bacteria they find in the water system.”

The full story can be found on the University of Sheffield press release - Bacteria in drinking water are key to keeping it clean:


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