The effect of pyrite on Escherichia coli in water: proof-of-concept for the elimination of waterborne bacteria by reactive minerals

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We present proof-of-concept results for the elimination of waterborne bacteria by reactive minerals. We exposed Escherichia coli MG1655 suspended in water to the reactive mineral pyrite (FeS2) at room temperature and ambient light. This slurry eliminates 99.9% of bacteria in fewer than 4 hours. We also exposed Escherichia coli to pyrite leachate (supernatant liquid from slurry after 24 hours), which eliminates 99.99% of bacteria over the same time-scale. Unlike SOlar water DISinfection (SODIS), our results do not depend on the presence of ultraviolet (UV) light. We confirmed this by testing proposed SODIS additive and known photo-catalyst anatase (TiO2) for antibacterial properties and found that, in contrast to pyrite, it does not eliminate E. coli under our experimental conditions. Previous investigations of naturally antibiotic minerals have focused on the medical applications of antibiotic clays, and thus have not been conducted under experimental conditions resembling those found in water purification. In our examination of the relevant literature, we have not found previously reported evidence for the use of reactive minerals in water sanitization. The results from this proof-of-concept experiment may have important implications for future directions in household water purification research.

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