BLOG | Bluephage

Tackling Waterborne Diseases and Viral Contamination for Global Public Health

Mar 28, 2024

Waterborne diseases remain a significant public health concern worldwide and are responsible for most illnesses and deaths.

Despite advancements in water treatment and sanitation technologies, billions of people still lack access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation and hygiene (WASH) due to various socioeconomic and infrastructure challenges. According to the latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and an accompanying article published in The Lancet, these issues could have been prevented, and at least 1.4 million deaths and 74 million disability-adjusted life years could have been saved in 2019.

In this article, we delve into the pervasive problem of waterborne viruses, exploring their sources, impact, and potential mitigation strategies.

The global burden of waterborne diseases:

Waterborne diseases, including those caused by viruses, remain a major global health problem, with preventable infections accounting for a substantial share of morbidity and mortality. Microbial contamination of drinking water as a result of faecal contamination poses the greatest risk to drinking water safety.

Diarrheal diseases, which are transmitted primarily through fecally contaminated water, pose a staggering public health burden and particularly affect vulnerable populations such as children under five years of age and immunocompromised individuals.

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), diarrhea occurs worldwide and causes 4% of all deaths and 5% of health losses from various forms of disability or loss of function.

Viruses in drinking water:

Although bacteria have traditionally been recognized as key pathogens in waterborne diseases, viruses also pose significant health risks, with notable examples including adenovirus, rotavirus, norovirus, and hepatitis viruses.

These waterborne viruses are primarily associated with gastroenteritis, but can also cause more serious illnesses, highlighting the diverse spectrum of health impacts.

Challenges and risk factors:

Numerous factors contribute to the persistence and spread of waterborne viruses, including inadequate sanitation infrastructure, outdated sewage systems, and poor water quality monitoring.

Groundwater contamination, which is often overlooked, represents a major problem, as viruses such as norovirus pose a risk to urban aquifers and drinking water sources.

Mitigation strategies and future directions:

Addressing the threat of waterborne viruses requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses improved sanitation infrastructure, improved water treatment technologies, and comprehensive surveillance measures.

It is crucial to invest in systematic surveillance and research to understand and mitigate viral contamination of water sources. In this regard, Bluephage provides fast and effective solutions to detect the presence of coliphages in water. Coliphages are non-pathogenic viruses that warn of the presence of other viruses that can cause disease. Coliphages tend to persist in the environment and are moderately resistant to natural and anthropogenic stressors.

Vaccination programs against waterborne viruses such as rotavirus and hepatitis A offer promising avenues to reduce disease burden and improve public health.

By prioritizing access to safe drinking water, strengthening sanitation infrastructure and promoting scientific research, we can mitigate the impact of waterborne diseases and safeguard public health for generations to come.

Share This