Determining the 'Environmental Typhoid Mary', and Conditions that Favour Perisistence
Andrew Greenhill of Federation University Australia in Australia, along with partners at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, will use advanced environmental microbiology methods to study microbial community dynamics associated with survival of the typhoid fever-causing bacterium Salmonella Typhi in aquatic environments in Papua New Guinea. "Typhoid Mary" Mallon was an Irish-American cook, written into infectious disease folklore as the first asymptomatic carrier of S. Typhi. More than eighty years after her death, little is still known about how the bacteria persists in environmental niches such as contaminated water, which is a major route of disease transmission. They will collect and filter water samples from streams in areas where the disease is common over an eight-month period covering both wet and dry seasons and analyze the microbial communities within by qPCR. This will be combined with physiochemical parameters of the water (temperature, stream height, photosynthetic activity) collected using DIMPP - a low-cost, late-stage prototype suitable for use in low-resource environments - to build network models. These models will be used to identify mathematical connections between environmental factors, aquatic populations, and the presence of antibiotic resistance genes. These connections could be used to develop an early warning system for impending outbreaks.