Water & Wastewater Asia Jul/Aug 2018

WATER & WASTEWATER ASIA July / August 2018 65 of sari cloth was folded in half and then again to achieve several folds, between four and eight, it provided at least 20 µm pore filter, which we determined by electron microscopy of the folded sari cloth. That proved enough to trap the plankton and particulate matter, which were of a size in the order of 100 or 200 µm. QN: Does climate change and increasingly extreme weather patternsaffect choleraoutbreaks? PC: We have recently published a paper that shows over the last 40 years, data accumulated showed warming of surface waters in the North Atlantic. Plankton samples collected and stored in an oceanography laboratory in England for 40 years and their extracted DNA showed an increased in the numbers of Vibrio bacteria pathogenic for humans. We found that the bacteria increased as water temperature slowly warmed over the years due to global warming. The increase in Vibrio pathogens and incidences of Vibrio-caused diseases in the U.K. and Europe were found to be correlated. This study was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. Further prediction for cholera outbreaks can be made using measurements by satellite sensors. The approach for predicting cholera epidemics can be applied to diarrheal diseases, that is waterborne diseases, including hepatitis and typhoid fever. QN: What led you to use whole g e n ome s e q u e n c i n g a n d specialised databases to identify different strains of bacteria? PC: I undertook whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics to ident i f y and character i se microorganisms after serving as chairman to the Advisory Committee to the intelligence agencies and the FBI following the anthrax event in 2001. It took a very long time to track down the perpetrator of that bioterrorism event, namely six years, but genome sequencing was used to identify the anthrax strain, and eventually the perpetrator. It thus led to my amb i t i on to shor ten the p r o c e s s o f d e t e c t i o n a n d identification and provide a method that work in a matter of hours or minutes to identify to species and strain, the causative agent and its source. Because of a career that has spanned the decades from culture to next generation sequencing of nucleic acids - that is, from culture to DNA based methods - from the late 1960’s to the present, the methods I now employ are far less expensive and much more rapid, and can be done within days rather than months. QN: Howwould this revolutionary approach impact traditional wastewater treatment in both the long-term as well as short-term? PC: This revolutionary approach will impact wastewater treatment in the long term as well as the short term as it allows us to determine the effectiveness of treatment with respect to the microbial populations in real time. However, this approach needs to be standardised which we are currently assisting in getting done. Perhaps eventually, but now I think the method is very useful and can now be used to determine the effectiveness of each step of wastewater treatment and drinking water treatment and should be applied as soon as possible. Economically, this discovery and this application of genomics will allow us to incorporate waste water and drinking water treatment into public health systems so that we can pre-emptively predict and treat infectious diseases within communities and do so very cost- effectively. WWA Professor Colwell in her laboratory

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