German scientists develop water bioterror detector

A new one-minute water warning system has been developed by German scientists to ensure that water supplies are further scrutinized for bioweapons, toxins and other substances that could be hazardous to the public’s health.

The AquaBioTox project is meant to create a system for constant real-time drinking water monitoring to supplement the current system, which only provides findings hours after testing, Medical News Today reports. The system can react to many different, potentially hazardous substances and creates testing results in only a few minutes.

The system consists of two different strains of mammalian and bacteria cells that react to toxic substances by producing a red fluorescent protein that can be detected by a highly sensitive camera developed by the German-based Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics.

“We tested various classes of substances that might occur in water - even though they shouldn’t - and to date our sensor has reacted to each of these substances,” Dr. Iris Trick, a co-developer and scientist from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, Germany, said, according to Medical News Today. “Our sensor can document even very slight concentrations.”

Trick and colleague Dr. Anke Burger-Kentischer are currently testing the AquaBioTox project on a closed performance route of Berlin’s water company, according to Medical News Today. They hope to make the system as small and cost-effective as possible so that multiple sensors could be installed to communicate throughout a drinking water network.