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Team uses phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems

Date: 7.8.2017 

Magnetic nanoparticle clusters have the power to punch through biofilms to reach bacteria that can foul water treatment systems, according to scientists at Rice University and the University of Science and Technology of China. 
Kredit: Alvarez Group / Rice University.

The nanoclusters developed through Rice's Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) Engineering Research Center carry bacteriophages-viruses that infect and propagate in bacteria-and deliver them to targets that generally resist chemical disinfection.

Without the pull of a magnetic host, these "phages" disperse in solution, largely fail to penetrate biofilms and allow bacteria to grow in solution and even corrode metal, a costly problem for water distribution systems.

The Rice lab of environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez and colleagues in China developed and tested clusters that immobilize the phages. A weak magnetic field draws them into biofilms to their targets.

"This novel approach, which arises from the convergence of nanotechnology and virology, has a great potential to treat difficult-to-eradicate biofilms in an effective manner that does not generate harmful disinfection byproducts," Alvarez said.

Biofilms can be beneficial in some wastewater treatment or industrial fermentation reactors owing to their enhanced reaction rates and resistance to exogenous stresses, said Rice graduate student and co-lead author Pingfeng Yu.

"However, biofilms can be very harmful in water distribution and storage systems since they can shelter pathogenic microorganisms that pose significant public health concerns and may also contribute to corrosion and associated economic losses," he said.

 


 

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