Water scarcity is one of the most vital and important issues of our time. With fresh water availability limited in many areas of the world, people will go to great lengths to get water, even if it's unclean. Luckily, Canadian researchers at McMaster University have developed a gel that, among other things, could possibly be used to purify water.
The gel was created by lead researcher Zeinab Hosseini-Doust and her team at McMaster University. The substance is made up of bacteriophages, a specific blend of viruses that can fight bacteria. These bacteriophages are often found in the human body.
Hosseini-Doust told CBC how the gel differs from traditional antibiotics, saying, "Antibiotics are not specific at all. They kill the good bacteria inside your gut, and the good bacteria are what we need to stay healthy." The bacteriophages in the gel, however, can target specific bacteria.
Some of the other interesting characteristics of this gel are its ability to light up and to heal itself if it is cut with a scalpel. That means the substance already has the potential to be used for implants and tissue replacement, as well as medical imaging.
Of course, one of the most promising applications of the gel is its potential for water purification. Hosseini-Doust told CBC that a membrane or filter which uses the gel could very well be used to filter bacteria out of water.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are currently over a billion people in the world lacking access to clean water. If this gel really could be used to purify water, it could potentially save millions of lives.
Of course, that might still be a long way away. Hosseini-Doust noted that the gel is only made up of one type of bacteriophage, and that more research will be required to see if the gel can be made from other bacteriophages as well.