3rd August 2021 Content supplied by: Bluephage
Water Quality Testing Using Coliphages As Indicators
Here we share an interview with Miriam Pascual, Chief Quality Officer at Bluephage about water management and the associated microbial risks. The content was written and supplied by Bluephage, a biotechnology company specializing in products and services for the analysis of bacteriophages as viral indicators in water, food, and biosolids.
Q. Could you tell us about your work at Bluephage and your day-to-day in the lab?
Miriam: I am the CQO, but in a small company like Bluephage, it implicates to help in different tasks, from bench work to the assessment of the results obtained.
Now, I am focused on our rapid kits, and I am helping with their development to achieve the quality expected to be certified. This point is a challenge because it involves transforming a method performed in a lab into a commercial kit.
Q. Why is water management essential? and why is monitoring its associated microbiological risks one of the main strategies?
Miriam: Water is essential for life and the development of socio-economic activities. However, water availability and its distribution around the planet are not equal, and many areas are affected by water scarcity, showing the necessity of water resources management.
The microbial risk monitoring allows ensuring safe water, avoiding the transmission of waterborne diseases. This fact is crucial to guarantee human, animal, and environmental health that are closely related.
Q. Considering that water is a renewable resource with a cycle in which different human activities interact, and that depending on the origin of the water and its characteristics, as well as its intended use, specific characteristics are required to ensure its salubrity, at what points in this cycle is it essential to analyze the microbiological risks of water?
Miriam: It is essential to analyze the microbial risks before and after water use, but for different reasons. Logically, the analysis before its use is the way to ensure safe water for that use. However, after its use, we add pollutants (fecal, nutrients, etc.) that may cause an impact in the ecosystem receiving the water, making it necessary to analyze this impact.
Q. The different water quality regulations include the maximum levels of microbiological parameters that water can have for the various uses for which it is intended and the different qualities and limits depending on the risk that the activity poses to human health. These microbiological parameters are indicator microorganisms or reference pathogens. At what risk level are the coliphages according to the different water uses? Is it a valid indicator for all types of water and uses?
Miriam: E. coli and other enteric bacteria have been used as fecal microbial indicators for more than one century. However, viral outbreaks have been caused by bacteriological safe water, showing the necessity to include viruses and/or viral indicators in water regulations. Some regulations contain human viruses as a reference pathogen, but they are present in water in low concentrations, making its analysis difficult.
Many authors have shown that coliphages are good viral indicators due to their behavior in the environment and their resistance to water treatments. Moreover, they are in higher concentrations than viral pathogens, and their analysis methods are easier and faster to perform.
Q. Current water resources management has two fundamental strategies: increasing resources and monitoring the status of existing resources. Bluephage plays an essential role in supporting this second strategy. So how can Bluephage products help improve methodologies detecting pathogens and microorganisms indicative of fecal contamination in water?
Miriam: Bluephage brings coliphage analysis closer to the water laboratory analyzers. However, the standardized methods sometimes are difficult to implement in routine water analysis because they involve many steps. Our kits provide an easier and faster solution to solve this issue.
Q. Detecting the presence of fecal contamination is essential for assessing water quality. Why is it crucial for water management to determine the source of fecal contamination?
Miriam: Fecal contamination is not only produced by humans but also by wild animals and animals related to economic activities. For that reason, we can find fecal pollution in all-natural water sources, but it is crucial to know the loads, and if these loads exceed the limits considered tolerable, it is essential to discriminate the origin.
Q. What is the purpose of modeling the microbial indicators of fecal contamination and the processes taking place in water bodies? To what extent can Bluephage products help water managers to speed up, if possible, the decision-making processes based on the modeling of microorganisms?
Miriam: Modeling is a very useful tool for water managers to design the treatments and monitoring necessary to ensure safe water and minimize the impact of the treated wastewater in the environment.
Bluephage products provide an easier and faster way to analyze coliphages in water that can help model these microorganisms, facilitating the decision-making.
Miriam Pascual is the Chief Quality Officer (CQO) at Bluephage.She completed her thesis with the MARS Group at the University of Barcelona, focusing on water resources and the associated microbiological risks.
Date Published: 3rd August 2021
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