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Immunological and Biosensor Techniques for Detecting Non-Microbial Indicators of Human Fecal Pollution

Petterson, Lynne
EPA Office of Research and Development
Start date
End date
Develop rapid, practical and sensitive biosensor, immunoassay, chemiluminescence and HPLC methods to detect caffeine, urobilin, and coprostanol, using them as non-microbial indicators of human fecal contamination in water.
More information
Limitations exist in applying the conventional microbial methods to the detection of human fecal contamination in water. Recently, there has been an increased interest in developing supplemental and/or alternate indicators of human contamination to better define water quality and predict the risk of human disease outbreaks. Non-microbial indicators such as caffeine, urobilin, and coprostanol have been proposed and have shown great potential as alternate markers of human contamination. The employment of these organic compounds has been hampered by the absence of a rapid, sensitive, and inexpensive method to detect their presence in water. This may be rectified by the application of molecular imprinting and biosensor technologies. Molecularly-imprinted polymers are used in molecular recognition, separation and sensor technology to detect specific molecules. Electrochemical, piezoelectric, and spectroscopic methods using this method can potentially improve sensitivity, cost and time of analysis. Conventional methods such as immunoassays, chemiluminescence, fluorescence, and high performance liquid chormatography (HPLC) were developed. Developed methods were tested in the field and compared with the standard microbial procedures.

The developed methods will allow immediate assessment of water treatment deficiencies so remedial measures can be put in place. Moreover, the biosensor methods developed can potentially be made portable and "real time," thereby allowing greater flexibility in assessing fecal contamination.

Project number
Sanitation and Quality Standards