Enlarge / Because not all water can come from the Britta or fridge filter, after all. (credit: Wodicka/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Detecting the agents of disease is often really hard.
Imagine that you live in a village in a developing country. You may not have electricity, and your water comes via a well of unknown quality.
Is the lining in that well sufficient to keep shallow, polluted groundwater from seeping in?
No matter how good your well-building skills are, you still need to regularly test drinking water to ensure that it is safe.

A new development in detecting bacterial nasties has scientists saying there’s a solution, one that looks like high-tech litmus paper.

But I’m not so sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
Testing your water
I have a brother who runs a non-governmental organization devoted to water safety and sanitation. On his last visit, he entertained my kids by testing the water from the local canal.

Essentially, you put a sample of water in a test tube and put another on a plate with some bacteria food.

The plate and test tube are left in a nice warm place for 24 hours.
In the absence of electricity, this involves taping the samples in your armpit.
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