Development of a Universal Microbial Collector (UMC) for Enteric Pathogens in Water and its Application for the Detection of Contaminant Candidate List Organisms in Water

EPA Grant Number: R833009
Title: Development of a Universal Microbial Collector (UMC) for Enteric Pathogens in Water and its Application for the Detection of Contaminant Candidate List Organisms in Water
Investigators: Bright, Kelly R. , Gerba, Charles P.
Institution: University of Arizona
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through July 31, 2009 (Extended to July 31, 2010)
Project Amount: $466,817
RFA: Development and Evaluation of Innovative Approaches for the Quantitative Assessment of Pathogens in Drinking Water (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Drinking Water


While numerous technologies have been developed (e.g. polymerase chain reaction – PCR) or are under development (e.g. microarrays) for the detection of as few as one microorganism, the practical application of these methods to the detection of pathogens in water is problematic. These technologies can only be used to analyze from 10 to 1,000 microliter volumes. Therefore, their application will never be fully realized unless rapid and economic (in terms of cost and man power) methods are available to concentrate pathogens into a volume small enough to be assayed. Thus, this study focuses on the development of an application for the rapid and economic concentration of enteric viruses, parasites, and bacteria from water.


Recently, surface-modified nanofiber carbons have been developed that are capable of removing all classes of pathogens from water at high flow rates (>10 liters per minute). These filters are capable of removing more than 108 organisms per gram of adsorbent from highly turbid waters. Because the adsorbent material is made of carbon, it also removes chlorine, preventing inactivation of the collected organisms and reducing the need to add a chlorine neutralizer prior to sample processing. This universal microbial collector (UMC) will be evaluated with waters of various physical/chemical qualities to determine precision, robustness, and accuracy. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) contaminant candidate list (CCL) organisms Coxsackievirus B5, adenovirus 40, Encephalitozoon intestinalis and Helicobacter pylori will be used to statistically compare (students t-test) the UMC with the recovery from four or more types of currently available collector media using EPA approved methods (for viruses and protozoa). Finally, the UMC will be applied to determine the occurrence of study organisms in distribution systems and groundwater at several different locations in the United States.

Expected Results:

The UMC modified carbon filters will be optimized to recover the greatest number of viable organisms with the least amount of material that may interfere with molecular (e.g. PCR, immunological) detection methods. The goal is to produce a final microorganism concentrate of 1 to 5 mL. It is expected that the recovery of pathogens and CCL organisms from water will be substantially higher using the UMC than from currently available collector/concentration media, including those utilizing EPA approved methodologies.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

concentrate, pathogens, large volumes, drinking water, groundwater,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Monitoring, Drinking Water, Microorganisms, enteric viruses, bacteria, CCL, aquatic organisms, viruses, drinking water monitoring, activated carbon, parasites, drinking water contaminants, drinking water treatment, contaminant removal, contaminant candidate list

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009
  • Final Report