Project team

  • Zhugen Yang, Cranfield University (UK)
  • Mojisola Owoseni, Owoseni (Nigeria)
  • Frederic Coulon, Cranfield University (UK)
  • Francis Hassard, Cranfield University (UK)
  • Judith Torimiro, University of Yaoundé I (Cameroon)


UN Sustainable Development Goals addressed 

  • Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation



Microbiological contamination of water used for human consumption presents high risks to human health, and it occurs throughout low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). For example, more than 80% of the peri-urban population of Yaounde in Cameroon access drinking water from boreholes, hand-dug wells and rivers, and over 60 million Nigerians are exposed to water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery.

Surveillance of drinking water are carried out at a late stage after the occurrence of outbreaks of diseases. The current detection methods rely on conventional microbiological culture or serological assays which lack sensitivity and are slow (hours-days). Molecular methods such as polymerase chain(PCR) reaction are typically expensive, require a well-equipped lab and skilled personnel to interpret results.

Our vision is to implement and deploy low-cost, low-power, point-of-use paper-based biosensors for rapid monitoring of water contamination (e.g. pathogens, antibiotic resistance genes) in Nigeria, Cameroon and other LMICs where access to infrastructure, equipment and technical expertise is limiting. We have demonstrated in India and Uganda a DNA-based paper-origami device which exploits hot wax printing to integrate sample preparation and microfluidic flows for pathogens detection.

These low-cost assays are both sensitive and specific for pathogen detection in drinking water. This proposal aims to further improve the performance of our device (in terms of multiplexing pathogens, detecting antimicrobial resistance and improving ease of use) with new engineering approaches, and evidence their impact so that they can find widespread application in both rural and urban environments.

We will train two PhD students, working within a highly multidisciplinary team (UK, Nigeria and Cameroon), to transfer advanced sensor technology for rapid monitoring of water quality to provide new understanding on the dynamics and transportation of contaminants and inform mitigation, to help achieve and maintain sustainable health and well-being.  

Project lead Zhugen Yang said “It’s an exciting project, in particular to extend our primary finding from the seed grant. This project will enable two fully funded PhD students, working within a highly multidisciplinary team from the UK, Nigeria and Cameroon, to transfer low-cost paper-based sensor technology for rapid monitoring of water quality, and provide new understanding on effective monitoring strategy.”

Project website

This project team are also working to pivot their research to help address the COVID-19 pandemic through low-cost testing. For information about this work, please visit: 

Wastewater test could provide early warning of COVID-19