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Lindsey Furness

Using flow cytometry for microbiological testing of water.

Project title

Advancing flow cytometry in the water sector


Project description

We use antibiotics to prevent and treat bacterial infections. They are widely used in anthropogenic activities such as medicine, agriculture and aquaculture. This use has compromised their effectiveness. Antimicrobial resistance

Drinking water in the UK must undergo chemical and microbiological testing to ensure it is safe to drink. Conventional microbial analysis uses specially formulated growth media. It can take 16-72 hours to provide a result, by which time contaminated water has already been distributed.

Flow cytometry (FC) is a method of single cell analysis which can count the number of bacterial cells in a water sample in ~20 minutes.

The technique generates multiparametric data on each cell. Datasets show the properties of whole populations of cells in samples.

Large variations in FC data have been observed between water samples that have passed all traditional microbiological tests. The relationship between FC data and drinking water quality is not well understood.

This project will link FC data to water quality. We will devise a system of identifying water quality failures using flow cytometry. We will use this system to drive new focuses in water treatment and distribution.

We will also explore the use of FC data to analyse fundamental properties of microbial populations in environmental samples.


  • Professional: Water microbiology, microbial ecology, evolutionary biology
  • Personal: Bouldering, rugby, open water swimming, triathlon


  • MRes Molecular Microbiology (University of Nottingham)
  • BSc(Hons) Food Microbiology

Lindsey is one of our current STREAM researchers.