Professor Thor Axel Stenström, SARChI (South African Research Chair Initiative) Chair in Development and Optimization of Wastewater Treatment Technology for Developing Economies, at Institute for Water and Wastewater Technology Durban University of Technology, visited Amrita School of Biotechnology on 27-28 February,2017, to explore different opportunities of collaboration with Sanitation Biotechnology Laboratory of Amrita School of Biotechnology as part of the project funded by Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. 

Professor Thor Axel Stenström, a world authority in sanitation technologies, is acting as an advisor for WHO in Geneva, currently dealing with risk assessment and Sanitation Safety Planning. He was also a Government assigned focal point for The International Protocol on Water and Health, UN/ECE Secretariat. As such he was responsible for the international summary reporting (Regional report on the status of implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health) of national reports between 2010 and 2013. Professor Stenström also served as a technical expert for auditing of Water and Sanitation Projects for the European Court of Auditors.

He gave a very enlightening talk on the topic of microbial risk assessment related to waste water and sludge treatment technologies and environmental reuse, which is very much in line with the research carried out in the Sanitation Biotechnology lab at the Amrita School of Biotechnology. He shared his vast experience in the field of sanitation by explaining his research carried out in Durban University of Technology (DUT) and discussed the policies adopted by the municipalities in order to tackle the health associated risks upon exposure of enteric pathogens by quantifying the risk of each category of pathogens: virus, bacteria, protists and helminthes, keeping their infective dose in mind. 

Different simulation models are followed to do this kind of Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA). There needs to be a multi barrier approach to keep the pathogen exposure minimum. Besides pathogen reduction, the reuse of the wastewater and sludge for irrigation and fertilization of crops. The advantages of drip irrigation over sprinkler irrigation were also discussed.

He explained the use of many methods and the importance of hygiene in the control of infection. The explanations were mainly based on the concept of “frequency of exposure will always increase the risk of infection”. 

Professor Stenström’s talk was followed by a presentation by his PhD student, Mr. Isaac Dennis Amoah, on developing a uniform soil transmitted helminths consortium for analysing fecal waste samples. Mr. Amoah talked about developing molecular tools for testing the viability of Ascaris eggs which are highly recalcitrant parasitic eggs, highly resistant to conventional sanitation treatments like chlorination.

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