Construction and testing of a whole-cell arsenic biosensor with a simple visual readout for field use (360G-Wellcome-096856_Z_11_A)
Arsenicosis from chronic consumption of contaminated ground water affects virtually all organs and tissues where skin lesions, bronchitis, gastroenteritis and ultimately a range of cancers are typical pathologies. Although arsenic contamination of drinking water is a global problem, it most seriously affects on the order of 100 million people in some of the poorest regions on earth including India/West Bengal, Bangladesh and Nepal. Prof James Ajioka's team at Cambridge University and Prof French at Edinburgh University are aiming to construct an inexpensive and reliable kit to assess arsenic contamination in drinking water in rural villages. Based on the observation that some bacteria detect arsenic, they will engineer an arsenic sensing device based on the Bacillus subtilis arsenic operon. This biosensor will be combined with a reporter system based on the violacein operon, resulting in bacteria that would turn green when it detects very low, safe levels of arsenic in the drinking water, but if the arsenic contamination is at a dangerous level, it will turn violet. The transcriptional signal to drive the pigment device in the bacteria can be tuned to respond to arsenic levels within definition of WHO safe or dangerous levels. The kit will be based on a weakened strain of the harmless soil dwelling bacteria, B. subtilis, housed in a robust plastic container to further reduce any risk and for easy, environmentally friendly deactivation/disposal.
£33,171 29 May 2015