Municipal wastewater can be used to track diseases in UH study

May 25, 2018, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Wastewater collection systems for infectious disease monitoring. Credit: University of Hawaii at Manoa

A new study led by Tao Yan, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa surveyed Honolulu's municipal wastewater system and determined that bacterial pathogen information collected matched those collected through the state's health laboratories. Yan's research was published in Environmental Science & Technology and selected by Nature Sustainability as its research highlight of the month.

The concentration and makeup of one group of Salmonella was monitored over a 54-week period in Honolulu wastewater and showed a significant correlation to salmonellosis cases reported in Hawaiʻi health clinics during the same period. Between wastewater and health clinics, 21 strains were shared, including nine of the 12 most commonly detected clinical strains, as well as one outbreak-associated strain called Paratyphi B.

The results proved that can be used as a microbial surveillance platform for in a community, paving the way for rapid and comprehensive disease tracking, including gastrointestinal infectious diseases. Efforts are also underway to expand the research to cover other types of pathogens (including viruses and protozoa) and antibiotic resistance.

"Although a lot of research and development work is still needed, this shows that wastewater-based infectious surveillance is feasible and can provide a new set of tools to protect human health," said Yan. "Ultimately, I would like to see a global network of wastewater infrastructures that work in sync to detect and track the occurrence and transmission of infectious diseases."

Explore further: Tracking superbugs for antibiotic resistance

More information: T. Yan et al. Municipal Wastewater as a Microbial Surveillance Platform for Enteric Diseases: A Case Study for Salmonella and Salmonellosis, Environmental Science & Technology (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b00163

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Death near the shoreline, not life on land

December 13, 2018

Our understanding of when the very first animals started living on land is helped by identifying trace fossils—the tracks and trails left by ancient animals—in sedimentary rocks that were deposited on the continents.

The long dry: global water supplies are shrinking

December 13, 2018

A global study has found a paradox: our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain. And the culprit is the drying of soils, say researchers, pointing to a world where drought-like ...

New climate model to be built from the ground up

December 13, 2018

Facing the certainty of a changing climate coupled with the uncertainty that remains in predictions of how it will change, scientists and engineers from across the country are teaming up to build a new type of climate model ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.