Researchers at La Trobe University have developed a 30-minute test to detect sewage in recreational and environmental waterways, potentially reducing outbreaks of gastroenteritis and other diseases in Australia and around the world.
A study published in Environmental Science: Water Research and Technologyshows that the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test—a rapid DNA amplification method—can be implemented on-site with a portable diagnostic machine, making identification faster and more cost-effective than current methods.
Study leader and PhD candidate Maysam Khodaparast said that when recreational water is contaminated with human feces, rapid and cost-effective identification is critical to preventing outbreaks of waterborne pathogens.
“Current testing requires cold-chain transportation to get the sample from the site to the lab, which takes several days—which hinders quick action by water authorities and timely public health decision-making.
“The LAMP test is very simple [a] the express water antigen test is quick and does not require scientific expertise to obtain an accurate result,” said Khadaparast.
The study was co-authored by Dr. Dave Charley, MD Bio2Labsaid the relatively low cost of the new tests would allow water authorities to increase surveillance during sewer spills.
Charlie said this is likely to reduce costs associated with cleaning up sewage spills because machinery and equipment can be used more efficiently rather than waiting extra days for test results to come back from the lab.
Contamination of environmental waterways by human faeces is common in Australia. The sewage network is separated from the storm water; however, during rainstorms, it is very common for stormwater to enter sewers due to broken pipes or illegal connections.
Sewage systems can then reach capacity by discharging wastewater through private plumbing connections such as toilets or by discharging into rivers and streams. This can lead to millions of liters of sewage ending up in urban waterways, killing aquatic wildlife and greatly increasing the risk to human health.
Commercial partners Bio2Lab and Geneworks supported the development of the LAMP assay through a PhD Industry Fellowship at La Trobe University under the supervision of Professor Travis Beddoe.