WE consult analyses samples with Udetect in Mozambique
Udetect has been tested for the past two years (2018-2020) in the field in Mozambique, within the MOMenTUM project*, in collaboration with our local partner WE Consult. The aim of the project was to collect water samples and analyse them for several bacterial targets to trace the quality of the water in the city of Tete. The project is now coming to an end and, after four sampling rounds, over 600 water samples have been tested for three bacterial species: two faecal indicators, Escherichia coli; and Bacteroidetes dorei, and the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella enterica. By analysing the data obtained, it will be possible to assess the drinking water quality of the area where the samples were taken and identify possible contamination sources.
The water samples were collected around the city area and then analysed by unexperienced personnel, without the need for additional laboratory equipment. The operators received a one-day training, after which they were able to perform the whole pipeline on their own. The method does not require cooled transport, incubation steps or hazardous reagents. Udetect allows to have results within 1,5 hours from when the sample is taken, but it also possible to filter the water sample and store the filtered material for a couple of weeks at room temperature before completing the analysis. This feature made it possible for the field workers to be flexible in their schedule of sampling and analysing the water points.
Collecting data on the water quality of a geographical area is of major importance to be able to tackle contamination issues and alert the population when a water source is not safe. This is particularly true in rural areas such as many African countries, where drinking water scarcity is a daily problem. Currently, water quality analysis is based on E. coli detection by culturing techniques. These techniques are very well known and established, but they are also slow in producing results and prone to errors. From literature studies as well as experience from other projects, it is known that focusing only on detection of E. coli can lead to erroneous judgement of the quality of a water point . In several cases, pathogens such as Salmonella have been detected by DNA techniques in water samples where E. coli was not found . Additionally, it is not always possible to conduct even these standard analyses if the right facilities and infrastructures are not present in the area. This problem could be overcome when using a mobile method such as Udetect.
This project gave us the opportunity to assess the method in a real-life situation, improve it and validate its effectiveness. This is what our local partner, WE Consult, had to say about their two-year experience working with Udetect in the field: “The Udetect protocol was carried out smoothly and no major problems were encountered. Over time, we got used to performing the steps of the protocols with confidence. Compared to conventional (culturing) methods, we found the sample collection step (by filtration, no cooling) of Udetect easy, and the absence of a thermal incubation step makes the whole method very fast (analysis takes less than 1 hour). Also, Microbiological concentrations are more accurate (expressed in DNA copies/ml) and many microbiological targets can be measured at the same time and with the same device; conventional methods usually need different procedures for different microorganisms. Of course, the technology is quite new and there are no official standards at the moment to define a water sample safe or not for human consumption based on the results generated. Also, the costs are still higher for this method than for traditional tests, but the benefits that can be obtained from it may help overcome the initial investment. Currently, it is being assessed which local parties and authorities are interested in applying Udetect to their water quality monitoring schemes”.
In addition to validating Udetect in the field, this project aims to provide insights in the water quality of the city of Tete to the local authorities (waterboard, municipality and drinking water comany). The data generated will be made available to them and, in this way, they will have more information on where contamination issues may arise and about the water quality in the area.
 Deshmukh RA, Joshi K, Bhand S, Roy U. Recent developments in detection and enumeration of waterborne bacteria: a retrospective minireview. Microbiologyopen. 2016;5(6):901-922. doi:10.1002/mbo3.383.
* the Momenum project has received financing from the Partners voor Water programme of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (www.rvo.nl)