Although the primary sources of E. coli are raw or undercooked ground meat products, raw milk, vegetables contaminated with fecal matter and water sources can also be contaminated with E. coli.
Testing water sources for E. coli costs about $70 (CAD), and confirmation of test results can take three days. Researchers at the University of Waterloo have turned the tables on E. coli water testing, creating a paper strip that provides results in 30 minutes. The researchers have penned a new and improved method of measurement, the DipTest.
The DipTest is a breakthrough that could improve water safety in rural areas and developing countries worldwide. The DipTest is similar to a litmus test as it’s dabbed into water suspected of containing E. coli. Here’s exactly how it works:
Sugar infused into the paper seeps into the water and attracts the bacteria, which then become caught in the paper
If a water sample tests positive, the bacteria then reacts with a mixture of chemicals inside the paper and turns the paper a pinkish-red hue
Researchers are still working on improving the DipTest, with goals of decreasing the 30-minute wait time required for determining results.