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The presence of Escherichia coli (E. coli) is one of the more critical indicators of water quality and is used as a direct indicator of fecal contamination. However, existing detection methods are costly, time-consuming, require laboratory expertise, and take up to 48 hours to complete. Additionally, many existing techniques to detect E. coli are unable to distinguish between viable (live) and dead or stressed bacteria, a critical test requirement following disinfection in common water treatment processes such as UV irradiation. Under Navy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding, Luna is therefore developing a small, portable, rapid and easy to use assay system known as “E.coREADi™” to detect viable fecal coliforms in treated wastewater discharge or other water samples.
Luna’s solution is based on a streamlined luminescent detection method in a self-contained syringe and filter device. Under Phase I SBIR funding, established feasibility of its concept in lab-based testing and methodology. Under Phase II SBIR funding, Luna has developed final kit components and reagents, transitioned to prototype kit manufacturing, and is now validating performance with partners at Environmental System Services (ESS) and the Navy. Following validation, Luna and ESS will utilize Navy SBIR Phase II Option funding to obtain US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard method approval.
Luna’s fecal coliform detection platform relies upon a unique filter-based reaction chamber that allows all steps of the assay to be performed in a contained and simple fashion. The feasibility of this filter-based approach has been established using both simulated and actual wastewater, and the “all-in-one” format has been developed to allow future automation. Luna’s platform is scalable across samples volumes from 10 mL to 10 L, is specific to E. coli in the presence of non-fecal coliforms, and has been demonstrated to be effective in detection of chlorine and nutrient stress organisms. Further, through feedback from our commercial and military end-users, the assay components have been simplified, color-coded reagents and instructions have been provided, and all reagents have been developed into shelf-stable formats.
Luna has currently demonstrated that a 5 hour total assay time is sufficient for detection of approximately 3 individual E. coli bacteria in a 100 mL sample. This is approximately 13 to 19 hours faster than the most advanced existing assays, and requires less than 15 minutes hands-on time, which is comparable to the existing standards. The E.coREADi™ assay is currently in transition from a laboratory assay to an easy-to-use, low-cost, and quantitative disposable assay kit.
This type of rapid transition from bench to field is performed daily in Luna Labs. Our Intelligent Systems, Advanced Materials, and Health Sciences groups routinely take innovative and commercializable ideas, establish feasibility of concept, and then transition them to the marketplace.
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