Technology allows detecting the presence of antibiotics in environmental waters with a mobile phone

INESC TEC, LAQV-REQUIMTE, the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Porto and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences developed a solution that evaluates antibiotic contamination – namely sulphonamides and fluoroquinolones – in environmental waters, and in real time, using mobile phones. The technology, developed within the scope of the S-MODE project – Screening of antibiotic contamination by mobile devices, will also contribute to the monitoring and protection of ecosystems. 

As explained by Hélder Oliveira, researcher at INESC TEC, the technology combines a mobile application, compatible with Android and iOS systems, and an image processing algorithm based on machine learning incorporated into the mobile devices, which can be used to evaluate antibiotic contamination. In addition, the use of computer vision techniques to collect and analyse field images, associated with the possibility of obtaining geographical locations, thanks to the use of mobile devices, allows the elaboration of an immediate mapping of the places where the sample was collected. 

“It will be possible to make a real-time assessment of the contamination of aquifer resources, also enabling the monitoring of the effluent discharge – from treatment plants for instance”, explained the researcher, stating that the solution could act as “a way to protect ecosystems, considering the low detection limits expected to be reached, in the order of micrograms per litre”.  

The solution, still in the prototype phase, but already demonstrated in a real environment, was developed within the scope of the S-MODE project, with a budget of almost €240K and the co-funding of the Compete 2020 and FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology programme. S-Mode ended in December 2021, and the final event, entitled “S-Mode Project: Combining Artificial Intelligence with Chemistry for Environmental Monitoring”, took place in late January 2022. 


The INESC TEC researcher mentioned in this news piece is associated with INESC TEC.

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