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VirWaTest is a project to develop innovative, portable and affordable equipment for detection of viruses in water samples. The pilot will use existing knowledge on lowcost protocols for virus concentration and detection in water samples to develop a laboratory-independent and affordable method for detection of viruses in humanitarian crisis settings.

What humanitarian need is being addressed?

In any humanitarian crisis, water quality monitoring becomes a priority. Unsafe water has a severe impact on public health and can lead into a worst scenario if there is not a proper contingency plan. Rapid and adequate diagnosis of water quality at the point-of-use provides data to design adequate plans to prevent waterborne outbreaks and diarrhoea incidence overall.

What is the innovative solution? 

There are several commercial solutions for water testing in the field, all of them related to Faecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB), but this does not necessarily indicate the presence of important viral waterborne pathogens, as Rotavirus, or Hepatitis E Virus. To our knowledge there is no solution for testing water regarding the presence of viruses at the point-of-use. The innovation proposed aims to produce portable and affordable equipment containing all the material necessary for concentrating 10L water samples for detection of viral nucleic acids using an inexpensive method. The protocol would be adapted to be affordable and applicable in any setting. Once designed, they will be coupled and evaluated for performance and a Standard Operation Protocol for easy use of the kit will be produced.

How does the innovation build on and improve existing humanitarian practice?

Viral monitoring in water sources is increasingly demanded in emergencies where the risk of waterborne outbreaks is high (Chad and Darfur, South Sudan, Haiti, Uganda, among others). Currently these tests require complex logistics, with a specialised team for collecting and processing samples and shipment to a reference laboratory for analysis. The innovation will provide humanitarian agencies with a simple kit, easy to use for water quality analysis in emergency settings, without requiring high technical knowledge.

What materials or research outputs are likely to be produced?

The new viral detection equipment will be available as part of an early warning system for organisations involved in water sanitation.

Latest Updates

Point of use test for detection of viruses

25 Jan 2015

Diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene are the major causes of child mortality worldwide. During humanitarian crises, the availability of safe drinking-water sources become the biggest priority due to overcrowding and the easy transmission of fecal pathogens. Many orally transmitted viruses produce subclinical infection and symptoms are only observed in a small proportion of the population.


Rapid response testing systems: little laboratories to 'take away'

01 Jun 2015

A rapid assesement of the most significant risks is crucial for he safety of affected populations in emergencies and crisis scenarios Portable Rapid Testing Systems are extremely useful for laboratory analyses in many different circumstances: from diagnosis of infectious diseases to analysis of drinking water quality. Such testing remains a significant challenge where resources are limited.


VirWaTest, 9 months later

27 Oct 2015

At this moment, in the middle of the 18-months project, we are evaluating the efficiency of the developed concentration. Water samples are collected in 10-L foldable plastic containers and viruses are concentrated either by filtration or by organic flocculation. This part will depend on a 12V battery that may work coupled to a car. All the required equipment such as the container support, the battery, the magnetic stirrer and the filter holder have been designed and manufactured by Geniul, partners in this project.


Monitoring water quality in African contexts

17 Feb 2016

Several outbreaks of waterborne viruses as Hepatitis E Virus (HEV) have been reported in the last decade in refugee camps of Africa due to their high density populated rates and their often low hygiene and sanitation standards. In north South Sudan since 2012, thousands of cases of HEV infection have been reported with more than hundred deaths, although the epidemiological pick was reported at the beginning of 20131, the cases of HEV are still reported in low numbers among the camps of South Sudan. Moreover, from April 2014 to January 2015, a total of 1,117 suspected cases of HEV infection, with 21 (1.9%) deaths, were reported among refugees residing in neighboring country, Ethiopia (Gambella region)2.


VirWaTest concentration step

16 Jun 2016

The method is based on three main steps: Concentration step Nucleic Acid Extraction and Detection by molecular amplification. Currently, we have assessed and confirmed the efficiency of the concentration method developed at laboratory level. Now, Oxfam Intermon, our partners, will test the concentration kit in the field.


Final Report: Development of an affordable point-of-use test for detection of enteric viruses and viral fecal indicators in water

01 Jul 2016

This project sought to to develop innovative, portable and affordable equipment for detection of viruses in water samples. The pilot used existing knowledge on low cost protocols for virus concentration and detection in water samples to develop a laboratory-independent and affordable method for detection of viruses in humanitarian crisis settings. The final project report provides information on the project methodology, activities, outputs, impact and dissemination of learning.


Feature: interview with the University of Barcelona team

17 Jul 2016

What happens when there are viral outbreaks in refugee camps? How can we accurately test water accurately and quickly to determine which viruses are present? The University of Barcelona have been working on an appropriatem and accurate test that can be used in the field.


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