Home Medizin Virginia Tech erhält Zuschuss für die Verbesserung der Erkennung von Krankheitserregern im ländlichen Abwasser

Virginia Tech erhält Zuschuss für die Verbesserung der Erkennung von Krankheitserregern im ländlichen Abwasser

von NFI Redaktion

Testing wastewater to assess the spread of the COVID-19 virus has been common and widespread during the pandemic, but it was primarily focused on urban areas.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded Virginia Tech $400,000, with an additional $50,000 from the Virginia Department of Health to Virginia Tech for a two-year project to identify and implement improved and novel methods for detecting pathogens for multiple diseases in the wastewater of rural communities in the USA.

„My work and research have mainly focused on rural areas, and prior to the pandemic, most of my research was related to drinking water and health challenges,“ said Alasdair Cohen, Assistant Professor of Environmental Epidemiology in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Cohen is the lead researcher for this new project, building on research that his team has been conducting since 2022, in collaboration with a wastewater provider in southwestern Virginia, under the supervision of Amanda Darling, a doctoral student in Cohen’s group.

Dr. Cohen is doing important work on drinking water and health, locally and globally. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he stepped in to help develop improved methods for wastewater surveillance, allowing the university and Virginia to better track and manage diseases. With the ARC funding, he and his community partners will use this science for the benefit of rural communities.

Laura Hungerford, Head of the Department of Population Health Sciences

At the beginning of the pandemic, Virginia Tech researchers in the College of Engineering began testing campus wastewater for COVID-19. Cohen was part of this team and led the statistical analysis of the data, finding they could predict future COVID-19 cases on a scale as small as a single dormitory. The team published their results in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Water, sparking Cohen’s interest in the use of wastewater surveillance in rural areas.

He is supported by two co-researchers from the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the College of Engineering: Amy Pruden, University Distinguished Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Peter Vikesland, the Nick Prillaman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as Leigh-Anne Krometis, Associate Professor of Biological Systems Engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Additionally, with the grant funding, Cohen’s team recently published „Making Waves: The Benefits and Challenges of Responsibly Implementing Wastewater-based Surveillance for Rural Communities“ in the journal Water Research. The article highlights the potential benefits of wastewater surveillance for public health in rural communities and the methodological and ethical challenges that Cohen and his colleagues are addressing.

„The $400,000 ARC grant will help Virginia Tech expand its work on detecting pathogens in rural community wastewater,“ said US Representative Morgan Griffith in a press release announcing the grant. „This work aims to improve our nation’s public health by enhancing community health surveillance and better predicting outbreaks.“

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) monitors wastewater at sites across the Commonwealth for pathogens that cause COVID-19, Influenza A, Influenza B, Hepatitis A, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus. However, the department noted that interpreting the results of some smaller rural communities has been challenging.

„This project is intended to complement VDH’s efforts in implementing wastewater-based surveillance to improve public health in rural towns in the Appalachian region of Virginia,“ said Rekha Singh, Director of the department’s wastewater surveillance program. „Since September 2021, VDH has been conducting wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 in communities across the state. This new project will help identify best practices for sampling in small communities and support VDH in implementing effective wastewater surveillance in similar communities.“

Infrastructure is often part of the challenge in testing rural wastewater, said Cohen.

„They have fewer people but a larger area, so there is more wastewater collection infrastructure per person than in an urban setting,“ Cohen said. „Many rural communities, particularly older rural communities, will have wastewater collection infrastructure with many breaks and cracks in the pipes. This means wastewater can seep into the ground and water can seep into the pipes.“

Especially after heavy rain, the infiltration of runoff into the sewer system can dilute the results of wastewater testing in rural areas. It can also lead to the loss of tax dollars when treatment plants have to handle both wastewater and stormwater.

„We have enough preliminary data from our pilot research to show that this could be a problem,“ Cohen said.

The grant will allow Cohen’s team to expand wastewater surveillance to new communities in southwestern Virginia and gain efficiency by applying lessons from previous studies.

„The goal is to develop an approach for rural utility companies and public health agencies to determine if wastewater surveillance is feasible for a particular rural community,“ Cohen said. „And if so, how could it be best implemented?“

Related Posts

Adblock Detected

Please support us by disabling your AdBlocker extension from your browsers for our website.