A simple biosensing technique may reduce reliance on costly laboratory equipment and complex analyses to detect Cryptosporidium parvum, a parasite that poses a public health threat, in water samples. The immunosensing method suitable for microbial detection developed at the University of New South Wales, Australia, based on clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) technology, requires little expertise and simple equipment for on-site sample analysis.

The method can identify the presence of even a single microorganism within a given sample, which is signaled by a fluorescent glow. A fluorescent agent is added to the reaction mixture and then combined with water samples. Results are determined with plate readers suitable for large-scale screening of multiple samples simultaneously, thus making the detection process faster and more efficient than conventional protocols.

The CRISPR/Cas12a-based system described in Water Research yields results in around 2.5 hours, at a maximum sensitivity down to a single Cryptosporidium oocyst per milliliter. The researchers plan to apply the technology to improve detection of other bacteria and viruses, including possible identification of COVID-19 in wastewater samples.

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