Meet Sreelakshmi Babu

Email: [email protected]

Academic and Industrial affiliations: Newcastle University/The University of Sheffield, Northumbrian Water, Scottish Water

Title of research project: The future of wastewater-based epidemiology

Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE) is a strategic approach for health protection that employs the analysis of wastewater to determine the prevalence of chemicals, infectious diseases, and other anthropogenic indicators in mass populations. WBE works on the principle that any substance or compound excreted by humans or animals, if adequately stable in wastewater, can be quantified, such that one can back-calculate original concentrations produced or consumed by the service population. The use of WBE for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) monitoring is among the recent applications and is being promoted around the world. AMR has been identified by medical professionals and public health specialists as a ‘silent’ or ‘the next’ pandemic.

The main objective of this project is to identify AMR using wastewater epidemiology in hospital wastewater. The experimental work includes DNA extraction from hospital wastewater and quantifying the antimicrobial genes (ARGs). It will also involve finding the optimum sampling distance and sampling quantity to find the hotspots for AMR. The data obtained will help find correlations between antibiotics used and specific ARGs depending on the sampling distance from hospitals. This will support Health Departments and other governing bodies to identify AMR hotspots and change management strategies. WBE data obtained will help water companies to modify treatment techniques and monitoring strategies.