A new map that tracks the path of fecal viruses could offer an effective way to assess water quality worldwide.
“Many countries are at risk of serious public health hazards due to lack of basic sanitation,” says Joan Rose, chair in water research at Michigan State University.
“With this map, however, we can assess where viruses are being discharged from untreated sewage and address how disease is being spread. With that, we can design a treatment and vaccination program that can help prevent sewage-associated diseases.”
The new study focuses on rotavirus, a pathogen found in human sewage, which is suspected of causing more than 450,000 deaths globally each year. Rotavirus severity rates are highest among children younger than two years of age. Because the disease spreads quickly—and via water—a deeper understanding of its transmission is key to combating it.
The modeling approach, designed to better understand the global distribution of potential viruses in water sources, includes a grid that helps pinpoint “hotspots” where emission sources are greatest. Those areas can now be selected for monitoring and control programs, Rose says.
“The great advantage of a modeling approach is getting a better understanding of the situation in areas where no monitoring data exist, but where we do have model input available.”
The study, published in the journal Pathogens, directly addresses the Sustainability Development Goals outlined by the United Nations that are being developed to extend public health goals that were not achieved by the original Millennium Development Goals.
Those goals, set by the UN in 2000, include cutting the proportion of the global population without access to safe sanitation in half by 2015.
“Achieving the SDGs is important for reducing waterborne diseases,” Rose says. “Rotavirus epitomizes the danger of these diseases and represents the ongoing effects that sewage contamination of water has on global public health.”
The study is part of the Global Water Pathogens Project, an initiative led by Rose that aims to obtain a better understanding of pathogens in sewage and surface water.
Source: Michigan State University