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New Algae-Based Water Filter Removes Even Viruses


filterA new filter paper produced by Uppsala University scientists in collaboration with German virologists promises to improve water filtration by removing resistant viruses.

Globally, many people lack access to safe drinking water, and being that water-derived infections is a global cause for mortality, microorganisms that are resistant to disinfection must be removed.

Although water-derived deaths have decreased since 1960, contaminated water continues to wreak havoc in the lives of individuals who cannot receive higher quality filters.  Viral outbreaks have also plagued Europe, such as in the 2008 Sweden outbreak where 20% of the local population became infected with the Norovirus.

The mille-feuille filter is constructed with cellulose nanofibers from the algae Cladophora and represents an affordable and alternative solution to current filtration methods. It also models the French pasty, mille-feuille, in its layered appearance and is biodegradable.

Many common filters contain cellulose, but their limitations include allowing infectious microorganisms to travel through their openings. Efficient filters that remove microorganisms from water are in use, but their high cost and low efficiency make them less preferable.

The new filter is especially unique in that it allows removal of small viruses. Small viruses often evade physical and chemical means of inactivation, such as chemical disinfectants like chlorine, which often produces harmful byproducts.

Filters have undergone changes over time, and basic filters have pores that are so large, viruses cannot be removed. A filter paper was developed in 2014 that removed large viruses like the influenza virus, while removing smaller viruses and maintaining a low production cost remained challenges.

While the mille-feuille-filter promises a solution to the global health concern, the research team is currently undergoing quality assurance and control protocols. After validating the processes associated with manufacturing the product, the filter is likely to reduce the harm caused by water-borne infectious microorganisms.


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