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Research Area: Pathogens and Human Health

Our Objective

WE&RF's Waterborne Pathogens and Human Health Research Program has provided state-of-the-art methods, relevant and accurate data, and tools to evaluate potential human health risk from waterborne microbes. The results support wastewater and stormwater management decisions and inform the regulatory structure and implementation requirements being considered by the U.S. EPA for the 2012 ambient recreational water quality criteria. Key areas of research include rapid methods for monitoring pathogen indicators, risk assessment tools, source tracking microorganisms, and indicators in inland, tropical, and subtropical waters. View the program's research summary.

Latest News

WRF Requesting Research Proposals on Antibiotic Resistance in Reuse and Wastewater Applications
The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is accepting proposals for Critical Evaluation and Assessment of Health and Environmental Risks from Antibiotic Resistance in Reuse and Wastewater Applications.
Water Environment & Reuse Foundation Awards Research Contract to Measure Pathogen Infectivity
WE&RF recently awarded a contract to the University of Michigan to begin research on Molecular Methods for Measuring Pathogen Viability/Infectivity (Reuse-15-07).
The Hunt for the Ideal Indicator Organism
This article from NYWEA ClearWaters magazine highlights the characteristics of an ideal indicator organism, current indicator organisms in WRRF effluents and recreational waters, future potential indicator organisms, and the challenges of using them to monitor wastewater disinfection.
USEPA’s Proposed Bacteriophage Criteria for Recreational Waters
The USEPA plans to update the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC) with criteria for bacteriophages, and it is expected that the USEPA will issue draft bacteriophage criteria in late 2017. To provide needed information on the fate and persistence of coliphages, the treatability of coliphages, and the potential cost of the coliphage criteria, WE&RF has funded a coliphage research project entitled “Evaluating the Fate of Coliphages in WRRFs and the Potential Costs to Reduce Coliphages in WRRF Effluents. The final report will be available in 2018.
Emerging Contaminant Research Prioritization Decision Making Frameworks Survey
The objective of this project is to develop a transparent and efficient decision making framework to be used in making and communicating decisions around the prioritization of research efforts on emerging water contaminants. This survey has been developed as an initial means of gathering information regarding current practice and further industry needs.

Products & Tools

Nationwide Meta-omics Survey of Denitrifying Microbial Communities in Wastewater Treatment Systems (U3R12/4878)
This research serves as a pilot for future meta-omics studies on full-scale wastewater processes and addresses some long-standing and high-priority questions associated with wastewater denitrification.
A Utility Response Plan Outline for Unexpected Emergencies (WERF1C17/4939)
Based on an APTIM and WE&RF survey, U.S. EPA developed this generic Utility Response Plan outline as a basis for the potential acceptance of wastewater contaminated with high-consequence pathogenic organisms at water resource recovery facilities.
Occurrence, Proliferation, and Persistence of Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance during Wastewater Treatment (WERF1C15)
This project provides an overview of the state of the science of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in wastewater.
Simple and Fast Detection of Escherichia coli in Recreational Waters (U4R13)
This research resulted in the development of two products which can serve as key resources to transform current recreational water quality monitoring programs, allowing for testing at the point of contamination and results in hours instead of days.
Potential for Exposure to Ebola Virus Surrogates Aerosolized from Wastewater Systems (WERF2C15)
This research assessed the potential for inhalation exposure to aerosolized Ebola virus surrogates in wastewater systems, including toilets, aeration basins, and sewers.