Early Rapid Detection of Cyanobacteria Contamination in Water Systems


Brief Description: Geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB) frequently contaminate global fresh water drinking supplies and fish raised by aquaculture methods. Estimated losses to US fish farmers are valued at approximately $60 million per year. This is due to the tainting of the flesh of farmed fish from geosmin and/or 2-MIB contaminations produced by cyanobacteria. Although nontoxic to humans geosmin and 2-MIB are generally associated with an undesirable musty or muddy taste and odor which indicates their presence. Geosmin continues to be a challenge to water utility management regimes and remains one of the most common causes of consumer complaints second only to chlorination in potable water as an unpleasant ‘dirty’ taste may suggest a failed disinfection system and connote unsafe drinking water. Current methods to deal with contamination are the dosing of water supplies with environmentally unfriendly chemicals such as copper sulfate to control algal blooms and/or powder activated carbon to address taste and odor concerns. Biological filtration using aged sand filters may be a suitable alternative to remove these undesirable compounds. A variety of microorganisms including some species of cyanobacteria fungi liverworts and beets produce these volatile organic compounds as secondary metabolites from molecular enzymatic pathways that involve geosmin synthase and 2-methylisoborneol synthase. Early detection of contaminating microorganisms prior to symptoms e.g. unpleasant odor may be important in developing effective remediation plans for reducing or eliminating these compounds in natural resources such as water food sources and other materials. Economic value and environmental health provide important incentives to develop improved and effective monitoring and management tools for detecting microbial sources of geosmin and 2-MIB. The invention a novel detection method has the fundamental advantage of acting as a potential early warning system to water managers. This innovation rapidly and reliably predicts and confirms contamination by microorganisms such as algal blooms associated with geosmin and 2-MIB contamination as well as detects the microbial organisms that produce such before the levels of these compounds become detectable by sensory stimuli – taste and smell. Test samples can be from any water source or solid e.g. whole organisms/fish and cell/tissues. The proprietary method is based on nucleic acid sequencing and/or a nucleic acid amplification assay e.g. real-time or quantitative PCR or known protein detection methods e.g. IHC Western blot mass spectroscopy etc. The method is directed toward at least one of the following molecular/enzymatic groups in a sample: microbial geosmin synthase microbial 2-methylgeranyl diphosphate synthase and/or microbial 2-methyllisoborneol synthase. The method can detect the presence of one or more cyanobacteria species. This technology is amenable in a kit format. Applications: Testing for contamination in water whether for drinking fish farming/freshwater aquaculture or otherwise in reservoirs ponds etc. and scientific R&D. Markets: Environmental testing devices with niches in food production freshwater fish farming/aquaculture and municipal/government potable water control and management; and scientific R&D to advance the fields of microbiology molecular cell biology genetics and biochemistry.


The method can detect the presence of one or more cyanobacteria species.

Date of release