More industry collaboration needed to curtail spread of deadly water pathogen

Posted 18 July 2017

More cooperation between public health research and climate forecasting is needed to prevent the spread of a deadly water pathogen, warns an industry expert. 

ANU lead researcher and ecologist Dr Aparna Lal said more collaboration between disciplines could prevent human cases of water-spread cryptosporidiosis following extreme weather. 

The Indian Ocean Dipole weather system has been linked with patterns of the human parasitic infection in Australia, but health researchers are often not included in discussions regarding upcoming climate events that contribute to such outbreaks, she said. 

"This work provides impetus for research to better anticipate where and with whom climate change might have the greatest effects. The research has the potential to inform public health preparedness and planning," Lal said.

Lal said that while flooding events do cause the spread of disease through water, less attention has been paid to dry-weather events’ contribution to disease outbreaks. 

"Most of the literature tends to focus on flooding events and increases in infectious diseases spread through water," Lal said.

"Equally plausible, but much less researched is the potential for drought-like conditions to increase the burden of diseases spread through water due to inadequate storage and concentration of bugs in water.”

The research project, a collaboration between ANU, the University of Otago and Nagasaki University, is now focusing on building forecasting models for the outbreak of infectious diseases based on regional plausibility and social demographics. 

The research paper has been published in Environmental Science and Technology.