Laser Precision

Lasers used to test water for E. coli contamination

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) With E. coli bacterial contamination a potential problem in both drinking and recreational water supplies, a new laser technique to provide faster and better analyses of rivers, beaches and lakes is a welcome new tool.

There are an estimated 70,000 cases of E. coli infection every year in the United States.

E. coli bacteria come in many different strains. Some are harmless, while others cause sickness and can result in death. E. coli infection commonly occurs from eating contaminated food products and drinking contaminated water and causes diarrhea and stomach cramps. In extreme cases of infection, respiratory complications and death can occur.

Bacterial diseases from water contamination are the leading causes of illness and death globally, making the need for effective and fast water screening tools vital. To that end, a laser-based technique has been developed that detects E. coli in particular.

One source of E. coli is fecal contamination in waterways and beaches. Researchers are now turning to laser technology to detect the source of bacteria in bodies of water by gathering images of bacterial colonies and identify the host species in a sample.

Identifying the source of bacterial contamination continues to be a big challenge facing officials. While widespread monitoring of water occurs, it is very difficult to identify where the bacteria come from. This new laser technology could prove useful in identifying the particular strain of E. coli present in a water source.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 19, 2011
Last Updated:
January 20, 2011