The lack of clean drinking water remains a huge problem in different parts of the world. According to the Water.org, more than 840,000 people die each year because they don’t have any access to clean water. 82% of these people live in rural areas and have no opportunity to use modern water purification technologies and expensive water treatment chemicals, but it seems that there is still something that can be done about it.
New research sheds more light on the amazing properties of the Moringa oleifera seeds, which grow abundantly in many tropical and subtropical regions across the globe and are known to have been used by the ancient Egyptians to clarify cloudy water. Scientists from Pennsylvania State University published a paper in the journal Langmuir which describes how exactly these seeds work.
It’s not the first study focused on Moringa oleifera seeds, and it had been previously found that they purified dirty water thanks to a protein which caused bacteria to gather in clusters at the bottom of the container and eventually die, but it was unknown how exactly this was done. The new research delves more deeply into this process and reveals that the seeds work by fusing the protective membranes of the bacteria together, which inevitably leads to their death.
The researchers also found when the Moringa oleifera seeds reach their full maturity – it turns out that the rainy season is the best time to pick these seeds. This discovery will help cultivate the Egyptian seeds in areas where they are not native and which suffer from the lack of clean water.
Moreover, some parts of the Moringa oleifera tree are edible and high in protein, and, in addition to being a water purifier, this plant could also become a nutritious food source in regions with severe hunger issues. Thus, the seeds could solve two problems of the developing world at once, helping improve the living conditions of those in need.
According to Bashir Abubakar, a botanist from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, who took part in the research, the cultivation of the seeds could also contribute to the development of local farming and the improvement of the infrastructure in general.
“[Local] farmers will have an additional income, because not only will they be growing Moringa for food, but they can also grow large plantations of Moringa for the seed. You can divert the money for other infrastructural and societal needs, either to improve the farmlands or to construct roads,” he said in a press release.
Even though the seeds cannot make the water 100% clean and potable, they are a great tool for effective and cheap water purification. More research is needed to further explore the properties of Moringa oleifera seeds and identify the types of bacteria they can neutralize.