This week microbiologist Rita Colwell received the Stockholm Water Prize. Dr. Colwell was recognized for her “numerous seminal contributions towards solving the world’s water and water-related public health problems.”I interviewed Dr. Colwell at the 2008 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science .
Q: What’s the most important thing you want people today to know about the environment and infectious diseases?
Rita Colwell: Infectious diseases are closely related to the environment. In other words, it’s important for us to understand seasonality, climate, and the drivers for infectious disease, and the fact that the ecology of the environment plays a very significant role in infectious disease outbreaks and their persistent patterns.
Q: Tell us more about this connection between infectious disease and the environment.
Rita Colwell: Let me give you an example. Cholera is a devastating disease in the developing world. It was a massive epidemic disease in the United States, but that was pre-1900, before water treatment and good sanitation was introduced to the country. The organism is resident on plankton, marine zooplankton – the small, microscopic animals of the sea. The organism is a marine bacterium, but yet it can also live in fresh water associated with plankton.
via Interview with Rita Colwell, winner of the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize | Water | EarthSky.