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Cryptosporidium testing receives grant funds

Griffith University and Seqwater have teamed up to deliver a project that focuses on bringing tests for cryptosporidium to the source, developing a portable technology that will enable on-site testing and genotyping.

The project will combine existing technologies to create a portable tool that can be used to identify the presence and type of cryptosporidium in water bodies.

The projects set out a number of stages, developing the  technology (for each) in the lab ...the filtration, capture and separation of cryptosporidium when it's present. And then on to the genotyping. [The project] combines a few different technologies together,” Dr Paul Fisher, who is managing Seqwater’s participation in the project, told Water Source.

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasitic organism that can cause cryptosporidiosis, a disease that can affect the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. Different species of cryptosporidium pose varying levels of risk to humans.

Awarded an ARC linkage grant, the researchers are creating prototypes that will both detect the presence of cryptosporidium at the source and, when found, genotype the organisms in order to identify their species — and their risk to humans.

“Part of our work in managing water storage in southeast Queensland is obviously making sure that we're aware of any risks that's in our catchments, and managing our water quality,” said Fisher.

“We're always on the lookout for new technologies that might be able to assist us in doing that.”

Fisher said that because cryptosporidium is found infrequently, it can be challenging to monitor.

“Just to be able to find cryptosporidium is difficult enough,” he said. “Then you have to be able to quickly work out what type it is to know whether it's a higher risk category or no risk to humans.”

The partnership between Griffith University and Seqwater will comprise researchers from Griffith developing the prototype, with Seqwater’s involvement coming later, during the prototype testing stage.

“Where Seqwater’s involvement is key is in getting that field experience," Fisher said.

"It's good to be able to design the technology and have something that can detect crypto[sporidium], but whether it's actually usable for our staff, and how it works in the field, is something that is key to our involvement.”

At the moment, the prototypes are about the size of a desktop, but the project will seek to further reduce the size.