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Micro Total Analysis Systems (µTAS) for environmental based monitoring

Mazher-Iqbal Mohammed, Dave Flynn, Mark Hartl
BioMEMS based detection for the environmental monitoring of E.Coli
     The presence of specific indicator organisms such as coliforms in seawater points to the possibility of contamination with faecal matter, consequently making the water and shellfish unsafe for human consumption. The source of the contamination either from human waste or other animals in large numbers can have a deleterious effect on coastal ecosystems and on human health, resulting in increased risks of conditions such as gastrointestinal illnesses following exposure to impacted shell fish and waters they inhabit. Technologically, the current state of the art is limited in its ability to rapidly detect the presence of harmful E. coli. Furthermore, there is limited knowledge on the real time influence of varying pollutants and their concentrations on toxicity. Current environmental analysis methodologies are laborious and lack of immediate result turn around to faecal coliform standards, which may not only impact human health but can have a further long-term negative impact on shellfish and the quality of their surrounding waters. In addition to the environmental impact, local economies may suffer due to the public prohibition in contaminated coastal regions and restrictions on commercial and recreational fishing.
     The main aim of this project is to design, model, manufacture and characterise a novel microfluidic device that will enable on-site shell fish and marine ecosystem testing for critical parameters outlined by the Shellfish Waters Directive (2006/113/EC), with a particular focus on addressing the challenges associated with conformation of faecal coliform standards. The proposed device will be optimised for the detection of E. coli., a prominent faecal coliform bacteria species and general biomarker useful in risk assessment of the human impact upon a given environmental system.  Various LOAC compatible bioassays suitable for the detection of E.Coli. will be evaluated in terms of compatibility within a microfluidic platform, result accuracy and sensitivity and result turnaround time. The potential of magnetopheortic and hydrodynamic separation will also be assessed, in addition to the integration of micro-components, developed in-house, with the aimed of enhancing the overall portability of the device.