INSTITUTE FOR WATER AND WASTEWATER TECHNOLOGY
EMERGING AND PERSISTENT PATHOGENS: HOT SPOTS IDENTIFICATION/ CHARACTERIZATION
Globally billions of people do not have access to potable quality water and sanitation facilities and they are at the risk of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) related diseases. It is envisaged that depletion of the existing finite water resources continues to be a major factor affecting the global economic growth in the coming years. Reliable wastewater treatment systems undoubtedly could serve as potential sources for the reuse of water for various agricultural and socioeconomic purposes. However, insufficiently treated municipal wastewater can also serve as a major hot spot for the spread of the emerging and persistent contaminants in surface waters, causing serious health threats to the community. Currently, South Africa is undergoing rapid urbanization with immigrants from inlands concentrating the crowded peri-urban and poor townships, which has resulted in the production of tons of litres of wastewater daily.
Due to the high rate of HIV, tuberculosis and other fatal disease incidence in the country, the wastewater generated could be contaminated by high concentrations of antibiotics, human and animal pathogens which may disseminate to the water bodies. The poor operational state of the wastewater treatment plants could lead to enhanced discharge of pathogens and multidrug resistance genes to the environment causing significant threat. In this study, a combined metagenomics and metatranscriptomics approach will be employed to profile the pathogenic bacteria in the final effluent samples of three WWTP around Durban. Application of metatranscriptomics along with metagenomics analysis would provide additional information on the viability of pathogens in the selected WWTP. The role of protozoans as a potential host for emerging pathogens will also be evaluated.
Furthermore, the application of propidium monoazide (PMA) based QPCR for the detection of viable pathogens from effluent wastewater will also be investigated as an alternative technique for monitoring the water quality. PMA is a DNA-intercalating agent capable of discriminating between live and dead cell, and enables amplification of viable species when combined with qPCR. Results emanating from this study would pave a basis for the development of pathogen risk assessment models for wastewater treatment plants. An in-depth profiling of pathogens in wastewater treatment plants using latest molecular techniques would allow us to review the limitations of current microbial detection techniques. The findings from this study would also enable the respective authorities to take necessary measures in controlling water pollution and provide clean and safer water to the communities. The project was initiated in 2017 in collaboration with the local municipality.
To find out more about this project download our CASE FOR SUPPORT booklet.