Outbreaks of recreational water illness, or RWI, have been on the rise in recent years. As Aquatics International previously has reported, incidents of the parasite cryptosporidium have grown rapidly since 2004.
This has been particularly true in regions of the world that lack regulations regarding water quality for drinking, bathing and swimming. And the impact is even greater when an individual in at-risk areas, such as rural China, also happen to be living with HIV/AIDS. Today, there are more than 750,000 cases in that country alone.
Recently, however, Xunjia Cheng and Guodong Sui, professors at Fudan University's Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Shanghai, have developed an idea that could help to more easily diagnose those who have been exposed to the parasite with a single finger prick using the "lab-on-a-chip," according to PHYS.org.
The microfluidic chip was designed by AutoCad software and manufactured from a widely used silicon-based organic polymer known as PDMS. It consists of functional valves, pumps and columns, collectively sitting at the heart of a platform of reagent cartridges, an injection pump, a fluorescence microscope and a digital camera. The chip itself is small—3 cm by 2 cm—and only costs about a dollar to manufacture, according to Sui. The microfluidic device tests for the presence of the parasites' P23 antigen, a major molecular target of host antibody responses against the pathogen's infective stages.
While the device will not prevent the spread of RWIs, and its direct impact on the swimming pool industry is not yet known, it is a step in the right direction and could potentially help to save thousands of lives. Read More