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  • by Trevor Loveday

Research centre seeks to stem spread of future pandemics

UK Research and Innovation has unveiled a £8.4m investment to set up a Centre of Excellence in water-based health monitoring at the University of Bath to prevent future pandemics from spreading by detecting them early.

The centre will develop a public health surveillance system to detect outbreaks of diseases by testing wastewater systems for traces of pathogens or other markers of diseases in communities. It will also provide better understanding of chronic, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

The balance of the final £13m full cost of the project will be met from contributions from the University of Bath and partners including Wessex Water, the UK Health Security Agency, Arup, and the Environment Agency.

The centre will host “state-of-the-art analytical capabilities” including water-monitoring, training and infrastructure testing “designed to provide low-cost and real-time community-wide profiling of population health and the environment.”

Co-director of Bath’s Water Innovation Research Centre and a member of the University’s Institute for Sustainability, Professor Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, will lead the centre. She said:

“Covid-19 demonstrated how the successful management of disease outbreaks is critically dependent on real-time, cost-effective and comprehensive surveillance systems enabling testing of whole communities, irrespective of location.

“Our previous research has shown the transformative potential of using wastewater-based epidemiology to carry out this testing in locations such as water recycling centres. These techniques could give us a crucial tool in detecting future epidemics before they happen.


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