New research approaches are needed to enable rapid determination of the pathogen load of European drinking water sources and supply systems used for food processing and preparation, human consumption and drinking. The new approaches should be based on molecular methods and complement the current time-consuming microbiological techniques, which are based on the cultivation of indicator bacteria.
Highly standardised methods are essential, validated with certified molecular reference material. The approaches will need to address the issue of inhibition of molecular methods and assess the significance of any positive detection. The combination of molecular techniques with electronic sensors will also be investigated.
The new techniques will result in detailed insight into the pathogen load, the hygienic quality and the specific microbial strains (viruses, bacteria, protozoa) responsible for outbreaks of waterborne infections. They will lead to better understanding of the sources, infectivity and virulence of these strains. The efficacy of the new techniques has to be demonstrated.
AQUAVALENS is centred on the concept of developing suitable platforms that harness the advances in new molecular techniques to permit the routine detection of waterborne pathogens and improve the provision of hygienically safe water for drinking and food production that is appropriate for large and small systems throughout Europe.
Whilst in recent years there has been considerable developments, especially in molecular technology, very few systems are available that meet the needs of water providers. Consequently, and unless it proves essential, rather than necessarily develop new technologies, the key focus will be to adopt and, where appropriate, adapt existing technologies to develop these detection systems.