Stanford researchers work on methods for monitoring of DNA in wastewater

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/12/19 9:06:03

Researchers with Stanford University's Bio-X, a pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences institute, are working on methods for monitoring of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in wastewater.

As wastewater may hold a wealth of insight for public health officials, an interdisciplinary team of Stanford researchers is keen on tapping into it and hope to enable early detection of disease and discovery of previously undetected pathogens.

"We hope to prove that wastewater monitoring can help protect community health," said Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, whose team plans to take advantage of the sampling features of a newly established facility for testing of technologies that recover resources from wastewater.

Using automated sampling, the researchers will amass and process samples to see what's in the water at the William and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center, which processes wastewater from about 7,000 people within the Stanford community.

The researchers will look for pathogen DNA from a menu of bacteria and viruses, hoping to reveal the broad diversity of microbes in our waste, and will keep an eye out for new and unexpected critters. In the short term, they plan to show "proof of concept," that wastewater-dwelling bugs are useful to public health.

Currently, disease response is reactive. Health specialists can't do much until patients report their symptoms. Even then, new and elusive pathogens escape early detection. Looking at the bugs in our waste, however, could speed up disease tracking.

"We like to call (wastewater) a sentinel for public health," Criddle was quoted as saying in a news release from Stanford. It means with the new sentinel, a flu outbreak on campus, for example, might be caught early and allow student health center staff to prepare.

"We can understand things that are happening to the community and take measures to address those concerns, whatever they may be, in a more timely way than would have been possible otherwise," he said, noting that views of wastewater, once perceived as a health hazard, are changing.

Posted in: BIOLOGY

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