Researchers develop 24-hour test for pathogen presence in water, soil, air

Testing field samples like air, soil and water for pathogens is crucial to public health and environmental monitoring. A new rapid-detection test is able to return results in 24 hours, rather than the standard four to five days.

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel and MIT in Boston have developed a highly sensitive, cost effective pathogen screening process.

"We accurately identified Salmonella (S. enterica) in environmental soil samples within 24 hours, while traditional methods take four to five days and require sorting," Ezra Orlofsky, PhD, lead researcher, said in a statement. "We also successfully identified a sometimes-fatal infection, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in aerosols generated by a domestic wastewater treatment system. The results suggest the developed method presents a broad approach for the rapid, efficient and reliable detection of relatively low densities of pathogenic organisms in challenging environmental samples."

The study, published in the journal Water, Air & Soil Pollution, is the first to comprehensively assess the concentrations of pathogens in a broad array of sample types. The research uses two testing techniques used in microbiological assessments to monitor the amplification of DNA in real time.

The researchers conclude using this method to detect pathogens like the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire's Disease, Staph infections and food poisoning is feasible and should be undertaken.

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