Water Experts Study Antibiotic Resistance

Nov. 8, 2018

The CDC awarded two contracts to study antibiotic resistance in recycled water and plumbing to two Virginia Tech professors

An estimated 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses per year in the U.S. are attributed to bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics. According to EurekAlert, The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is launching an effort to study different facets of the threat by funding research across the country. This includes two water experts at Virginia Tech.

The CDC awarded two contracts to study antibiotic resistance in recycled water and plumbing to Amy Pruden and Marc Edwards. According to EurekAlert, Pruden and Edwards are both professors in the Charles Edward Via, Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

The professors have received the contracts as part of CDC’s effort to address emerging public health priorities. According to EurekAlert, the work they are set to conduct for next year falls under one of CDC’s 10 major research area of interest surrounding disease control. The professors will both focus their efforts on antibiotic resistant pathogens and resistance genes in water systems.

Pruden is specifically leading an effort to examine the issue in the context of wastewater recycling or reuse. Her project will explore the opportunity to intentionally design wastewater treatment and reclamation processes as a barrier to the spread of antibiotic resistance, according to EurekAlert.

Pruden’s team will partner with Kang Xia, professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech, and V. Jody Harwood, professor and chair of the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida. The research team will also include post-doctoral student Emily Garner and civil engineering graduate student Ishi Keenum. The team will examine markers of antibiotic resistance through local water reclamation facilities treating water for water reuse, according to EurekAlert.

Edwards will serve as investigator for a project focused on plumbing and potential for pathogen to colonize drinking water systems in hospitals. According to EurekAlert, hospital face an added risk of infecting susceptible populations.

Edward’s team includes civil and environmental engineering graduate students M. Storme Spencer and Abe Cullom, and Virginia Tech biological sciences professor Joseph O. Falkinham III. The team will deploy a novel pipe bioreactor system for simulating building plumbing that was developed by Spencer to test the effectiveness of the disinfectants, similar to those used in hospital plumbing.

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