Cyanobacteria testing in the palm of your hand

By blue-green algae, quick test, swimming pool, water quality, cyanobacteria, microcystins, nodularins, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, University of Turku
Tuesday, 21 June, 2016

Cyanobacteria testing in the palm of your hand

Researchers have developed an easy-to-use, affordable test for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). The developers, from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the University of Turku, are now seeking a commercialiser for the device.

The device is designed for use by consumers and authorities alike. It can identify the presence of the most common cyanobacteria toxins, such as microcystins and nodularins. It could be used to test water quality in natural pools and other bodies of water.

“The cyanobacteria test requires only a few drops of water and indicates the result within 15 minutes. If two red lines appear on the display, the water contains cyanobacteria toxins. One line means that the water sample is toxin-free,” said VTT Senior Scientist Liisa Hakola.

The credit card-sized paper-based testing device is disposable and biodegradable. It’s impossible to tell from visual inspection alone whether the cyanobacteria in water is toxic or not.

“Even after the blue-green algae disappear, the water might contain toxins for a while. With the device, you can quickly check that the water is safe to use,” said Markus Vehniäinen, a researcher at the University of Turku.

The project aims to help consumers obtain up-to-date information about the state of their water bodies by developing an affordable, fast and easy-to-use solution. If transferred to an automated testing platform, the assay would also be suitable for applications requiring particular measurement sensitivity, such those for testing drinking water around the world.

The cyanobacteria test has been found to work in natural water samples, and a commercialising company is currently being sought so that the test can be made available to consumers.

Image credit: VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

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