UEA launches €9 million project to improve drinking water safety in Europe
The University of
East Anglia (UEA) will launch a €9 million EU-funded research project to
improve the safety of European drinking water today.
Around 330,000 cases
of water-related disease such as E.coli and the norovirus are reported yearly in Europe according to the World Health
Organisation (WHO). Between 2000 and 2007 there were 354 outbreaks of
waterborne diseases across 14 countries. Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting,
stomach pains, nausea, headache, and fever.
Aquavalens project will develop and apply more rapid methods of detecting
viruses, bacteria and parasites in water before they can make people sick.
engineers, policy makers and public health practitioners from 39 organizations
in 13 countries will come together today to launch the project in Sestri
The research will be
led by Prof Paul Hunter from UEA’s Norwich Medical School. Consortium partners include small businesses, industries,
universities and research institutes. The project is funded by the European
Union’s Framework Programme 7.
Prof Hunter said:
“Although most European countries are fortunate to have some of the safest
drinking water in the world, outbreaks of disease do still occur each year.
Europeans drink water from very small supplies that are currently difficult to
properly monitor and which have been shown to pose a
risk – particularly to children who suffer the most from episodes of illness,
with greater rates of hospitalization and higher mortality rates.
technologies we currently have it can take two or more days to identify
infectious risks in drinking water and by then the affected water is likely to
have been consumed.
“This project will
develop more rapid methods so that problems can be identified earlier. It will
prevent people becoming sick by stopping them drinking contaminated water.”
The project will
progress through four main phases. The first phase will focus on performing
cutting edge science and genome research on the microbes that cause disease
though drinking water such as Cryptosporidium,
The second phase will
develop and apply state-of-the-art technologies to detect these agents in water
such as gene probes, nano-technologies and bio-sensors.
In the third phase,
new technologies will be used to test the safety of European drinking water in
large water utilities, small private supplies and in the food industry.
The fourth and final
phase will focus on understanding how these technologies can be integrated into
existing practices to protect the health and safety of people in Europe from
the threats of water contamination including those associated with
project, close cooperation will be maintained with biotechnology companies,
water providers and food producers so that new technologies will meet real
needs and find strong markets. Links with national and international government
agencies such as the European Commission and the World Health Organisation will
ensure that the project’s findings will influence European policy.
For more information, visit www.aquavalens.org.