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Community water supplies: ensuring microbial safety for disease prevention

41 months
Approved budget:
Dr Liping Pang
Health issue:
Environmental health
Proposal type:
Lay summary
Each year, tens of thousands of New Zealanders succumb to gastroenteritis caused by protozoan, bacterial and viral contamination of drinking-water supplies. Current tools available for assessing microbial removal from water supplies are limited to E. coli and turbidity. We have recently developed and validated harmless and inexpensive new surrogates (biomolecule-modified particles) for quantifying the filtration removal of Cryptosporidium, rotavirus and adenovirus. We are currently developing norovirus surrogates. Using surrogate and pathogen testing in real-world settings including a pilot drinking-water treatment plant, we will determine the efficacy of pathogen removal in the filtration systems typically used in NZ. Hence we will demonstrate the practicality and cost-effectiveness of the new surrogate technology. Our research findings will help implement preventive measures to reduce drinking-waterborne infection risks, which will be estimated using quantitative microbial risk assessments and associated cost-benefit analyses. Research outcomes will promote uptake of new surrogate technology for safeguarding community water supplies.