Genetics can help ensure safe drinking water: Study

June 4th, 2008 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 4 (IANS) A genetic tool could come in handy in freeing drinking water of harmful microbes and viruses, especially in the Third World, a new study has found. For example, short strands of genetic material could target a corresponding patch of a gene in a common fungus in water and deactivate it.

Researchers believe that this technique could potentially help ensure safe drinking water in Third World countries sans water treatment facilities.

The technology, known as RNA interference (RNAi), makes use of short snippets of genetic material that match — like a lock and key — a corresponding segment of a gene in the target.

They can then inhibit or block the action of the target gene. This approach is increasingly being used as a tool in biomedical research, but has not previously been applied to environmental issues.

“Pathogens, whether bacterial or viral, represent one of the major threats to drinking water in developed and undeveloped countries,” said Sara Morey, an associate of Claudia Gunsch, of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

“Our data showed that we could silence the action of a specific gene in a fungus in water, leading us to believe that RNAi shows promise as a gene-silencing tool for controlling the proliferation of waterborne bacteria and viruses.”

Morey presented the results of her experiments on Tuesday during the annual meeting of the American Society of Microbiology in Boston.

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