Small testing device for detecting toxic blue-green algae

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a testing device for detecting the presence of toxic blue-green algae in water.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a testing device for detecting the presence of toxic blue-green algae in water.

Developed together with the University of Helsinki, the device is the size of a thermometer, and it contains antibodies that react to toxic bacteria found in a water sample. The test reveals in minutes whether the water sample contains toxic blue-green algae.

VTT said, at the moment, information on blue-green algal blooms in water is mostly based on visual inspections. However, visual inspections alone are not capable of determining whether an algal bloom is toxic. Until now, the toxicity of algae has generally had to be tested in a laboratory. For example, only approximately half of blue-green algal blooms in lakes are toxic and harmful to humans and animals. The new testing kit is designed to provide a fast and reliable means of determining whether a blue-green algal bloom is toxic.

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, favour eutrophic and warm water. Cyanobacteria can be found in almost every terrestrial and aquatic habitat - oceans, fresh water, damp soil, temporarily moistened rocks in deserts, and even Antarctic rocks. Every year, they form extensive blooms e.g. in the Baltic Sea and other waters. The prevalence of algae each summer depends on factors such as weather and water nutrient levels. The first blue-green algal blooms begin to form when the surface of sea water reaches 15 degrees.

The testing kit for detecting toxic blue-green algae is in the process of being commercialised. The kits could be on sale within two to three years.

www.vtt.fi

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