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Scientists engineer bacteria-hunting virus to kill E. coli in drinking water

| October 1, 2018
children drinking water
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

To rapidly detect the presence of E. coli in drinking water, Cornell University food scientists now can employ a bacteriophage — a genetically engineered virus — in a test used in hard-to-reach areas around the world.

“Drinking water contaminated with E. coli is a major public health concern,” said Sam Nugen, Ph.D., Cornell associate professor of food science. “These phages can detect their host bacteria in sensitive situations, which means we can provide low-cost bacteria detection assays for field use — like food safety, animal health, bio-threat detection and medical diagnostics.”

The [virus] carries a gene for an enzyme NLuc luciferase, similar to the protein that gives fireflies radiance …. when the bacteriophage finds the E. coli in water, an infection starts …. After the [virus] binds to the E. coli, it shoots its DNA into the bacteria. “That is the beginning of the end for the E. coli,” said Nugen. The [virus] then ….breaks open the bacterium, releasing the [radiance] enzyme as well as additional [viruses] to attack other E. coli.

Describing the importance of phage-based detection technology, [First author Troy Hinkley, a Cornell doctoral candidate in the field of food science] said, “Global Good invents and implements technologies to improve the lives of people in the developing world. Unfortunately, improper sanitation of drinking water leads to a large number of preventable diseases worldwide.

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Read full, original article: Genetically engineered viruses discern, destroy E. coli in drinking water

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