Detecting water and food-borne contaminants usually involves collecting a sample, sending it to a laboratory, and waiting for it to be filtered, incubated, tested, and identified under a microscope.

If a critical infection is suspected, say for E. coli, the pathogen may already have multiplied and spread before the report arrives days later.

A series of "lab on a chip" applications in development at the University of Arizona (UA) can identify pathogens in minutes rather than days, using a simple device that can deliver results locally.

The degree of accuracy is three orders of magnitude greater than for conventional real-time or rapid tests, and the method can be used to test lower concentrations of pathogens.

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