Areas of interest
Healthcare-acquired infections affect over 1 million of people in the US every year (5% of admissions), resulting in 100,000 deaths and an annual economic burden of 5-10 billion dollars (Peleg 2010). Outbreaks in healthcare facilities are often caused by Clostridium difficile and Carbapenem-resistant enterbacteriacee, multi drug-resistant organisms (MRDOs) that can be diagnosed by stool analysis. For these MDROs, the number of asymptomatic “source” patients is thought to greatly exceed the number of infected patients, and asymptomatic carriers can serve as the reservoir for spread to other patients. Current active surveillance testing requires collection of stool specimen or rectal swabs and is limited to high risk patients.
Rapid response to enteric disease outbreaks
Monitoring in public and community toilets in low-resource countries to allow for rapid response to enteric disease outbreaks, such as typhoid fever, cholera, and norovirus. An an example, Enteric typhoid fever, caused the bacterium Salmonella typhi, is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in low-resource regions due to contaminated water where there is poor sanitation. The pathogen is shed through feces and a significant percentage of typhoid patients become chronic carriers. Detection of enteric bacteria and viruses through sampling from public toilet effluent, while technically challenging, holds promise of being more scalable, cost-effective and near real time than traditional epidemiological surveillance and could inform improved public health interventions.
Project: Smart Sanitation Consortium in Pune, India, led by WoodCo and Biomass Controls, funded by the European Space Agency - Toilet Board Coalition
In humans, the gastrointestinal tract houses several trillion microbial cells, known as the gut microbiota, with great functional diversity. The gut microbiota is the focus of intense research for its association with a range of chronic diseases including inflammatory, autoimmune, and neurologic diseases, as well as for the effect of factors such as nutrition and drug intakes on individual health and wellbeing.
Analysis of stool specimen is the key tool of investigation and significant effort relies on gene sequencing of the gut microbiome.