Molecular-biological methods

Traditionally, microbiological analyses are carried out through the cultivation of organisms. Molecular methods in contrast research the genetic material – DNA and RNA – in the water. These methods are faster and provide more information about the organism. But they can also involve drawbacks, depending on the reasons for the sampling. This is why it is a good idea to look for alternatives in the form of newly-developed molecular techniques which, over the course of time, could also be applied in the drinking water sector. This project researches and optimises various techniques for application in drinking water research and supply.

Digital Droplet PCR (ddPCR)

Prioritised droplet PCR methods are now available for the quantification of specific microorganisms that affect microbial water quality. This means drinking water utilities and laboratories dispose of a tool enabling them to more reliably quantify water quality, from source to tap, with regard to six organisms. They can also more reliably determine the influence of various conditions upon these microorganisms. A brief internship will give the drinking water laboratories the opportunity to build experience with ddPCR methods.

Microbial profiling with NGS

Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is a low-cost method of determining the composition and sequence of the DNA building blocks (DNA sequence) of huge amounts of DNA fragments. Identifying the composition of bacterial populations is known as ‘microbial profiling’. This project is directed at optimising the application of NGS methods and studying their performance characteristics.

The use of generally standardised laboratory protocols, software analyses and visualisation tools that are also implementable in drinking water laboratories, makes it possible to conduct microbial profiling more reliably and in a reproduceable manner. Moreover, sharing knowledge with external researchers will further clarify the possibilities and impossibilities concerning microbial profiling in the drinking water sector, which will then be confirmed in a number of case studies.

Ultimately, this will result in an understanding of the added value of microbial profiling as a research tool in the monitoring and control of microbial water quality, providing a basis for the study of processes that influence this quality.

Capitalising on new developments

The development of new detection methods for microbiological research is advancing rapidly. In this project section, new, promising methods will be signalled, and we will use a newsletter to share knowledge in the field with experts at the water utilities and their laboratories. This will ensure the sector has up-to-date knowledge, allowing it to capitalise pointedly on new developments.