2003 Winner: Applied Technology and Innovation
Researcher Improves Water Quality Testing Worldwide
An international leader in enteric protozoology, Dr. Miodrag Belosevic has had a direct impact on improving drinking water quality and public health worldwide. His discoveries concerning the most effective way to control infectious waterborne microorganisms such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium are being used to design effective water treatment facilities across North America and in Europe. In addition, tests developed by Dr. Belosevic and his colleagues are widely used by industry to detect parasites in drinking water and ensure a safe water supply.
Dr. Belosevic’s field of research addresses one of the greatest concerns facing water utilities today. In North America alone there have been more than 300 documented outbreaks of disease caused by waterborne infectious microorganisms. Among the most tragic were outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (where more than 400,000 people became infected and 60 died).
Fresh in Canadians’ memory is the deadly outbreak of intestinal disease in Walkerton, Ontario, caused by a strain of E. coli bacteria in the water supply. Dr. Belosevic and his collaborators demonstrated that chemical oxidants such as chlorine, monochloramine and carbon dioxide commonly used in water treatment are only mildly effective in controlling Giardia and Cryptosporidium. His team discovered, however, that these parasites are highly susceptible to treatment with ozone and ultraviolet radiation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used data from these studies as the basis for water treatment regulations and standards in the United States. EPA standards serve as a guide to many other governments. As a result, Dr. Belosevic’s work has had a dramatic effect on improving public health around the world.
Dr. Belosevic understands issues concerning the water industry and works closely with industry to address those concerns. Early in his career, he developed a model using laboratory animals for drinking water treatment studies involving Giardia lamblia. However, the use of animal models is too expensive and time consuming for water utility laboratories. To address this problem, Dr. Belosevic developed tests that involve staining DNA with dyes and searching for parasites with laser-based detection equipment. These tests take only 30 minutes and are automated so operators can monitor water supplies continuously to prevent outbreaks.
Because the water industry needs these tests urgently, Dr. Belosevic and his team have chosen not to patent this applied technology. As a result water operators have rapidly adopted the tests, which are now used routinely on four continents.