Why is Microbiology important?

belen microbioMicrobiology is one of the overarching areas of expertise that we employ throughout our research into water, sanitation and hygiene. Microbiology is essentially the study of microscopic organisms and it is these pathogenic microorganisms that are responsible for most of the diseases (particularly diarrhoeal diseases) which are caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene. Using microbiology within our research helps us to understand and track patterns of disease transmission and identify the types of organisms that may be causing diarrhoea or other adverse health outcomes. By measuring the presence of microorganisms in environmental samples, before and after intervention studies, we can develop a more accurate picture of whether we have achieved a reduction in faecal contamination which could consequently result in a reduction of disease transmission.

Key reserach and contributions to this area:

We conduct studies on infectious organisms and the diseases they cause by employing a multidisciplinary approach which includes diagnosis, ecology, epidemiology, prevention, control, treatment, socio-ecological systems, human ecology, microbial and vector ecology, environmental change, and participatory action research to answer fundamental questions associated with pathogenesis of these diseases. These studies can be laboratory-based, field-based, clinical-based, or include a combination of all three.

In particular staff from the group have made significant contributions in the following areas:

  • Environmental sampling (water, soil, surfaces, wastewater and other environmental samples)
  • Detection of bacteria, virus, and parasite using different microbiology techniques (culture, molecular biology, microscopy methods).
  • Monitoring and control of drinking water sources. Developing and improving disinfection and treatment methods for drinking water sources.
  • Conducts environmental investigations to identify pathogens and indicators of fecal contamination.
  • Developing and testing new environmental sample detection methods.

Current reserach in this area:

Studying Moringa oleifera as a potential handwashing product

moringa labStaff at the EHG recenly conducted a study into whether the leaves from the Moringa oleifera plant could be used as an alternative handwashing product. The study was conducted with healthly volunteers in our laboratory at LSHTM. The study found that a dose of 4g of Moringa oleifera in wet or dried formulation presented the same efficacy as non-medicated soap. The next step will be to try this product in real conditions and study its acceptability and convenience for potential users in developing settings.

Assessment of exposure to human excreta along principal transmission pathways.transmission pathways

Our group has recently conducted a sanitation cluster randomized controlled trial evaluation of a WaterAid India programme which aimed to improve rural sanitation in Odisha (India). The evaluation study is assessing the impact of the construction of new rural latrines on reported diarrhoea, helminth infection, nutritional status and various non-health outcomes. While the primary outcome is diarrheal disease, the intervention can only impact health if it actually mitigates faecal exposure. The research will document how the intervention actually impacts exposure to human excreta along principal transmission pathways by evaluating the impact on (i) faecal contamination of drinking water, (ii) the presence of mechanical vectors (flies) in food preparation areas, and (iii) the presence of faeces in and around participating households and villages.microbio

Full list of publications relted to micobiology:

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