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Rita Colwell awarded 2010 Stockholm Water Prize

US: US researcher Rita Colwell, known for her work on infectious waterborne diseases like cholera, received the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize. Using satellite imagery of zooplankton blooming in the Bay of Bengal, Colwell and her team were able to develop means to predict outbreaks of cholera in Bangladesh and India.

Colwell, 76, a professor at the University of Maryland and John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, was cited for “pioneering research,” including “exceptional contributions to control the spread of cholera.” The annual award, worth USD 150,000, was created in 1990 to recognise achievements in water science, water management, water action or awareness building.

Cholera is estimated to cause some 120,000 deaths each year and infects 3 to 5 million people.

Earlier, in the 1960s, Colwell observed that Vibrio cholera, the causative agent for cholera, could survive by attaching to zooplankton. She also made a pioneering discovery that certain bacteria can enter a dormant stage that could revert to an infectious state under the proper conditions. Rivers, lakes and oceans can therefore serve as reservoirs for these bacteria. Previously, it was thought that cholera spread from person to person, food or drinking water and that its presence in the environment could only be due to sewage.

In her remarks, she noted how well-worn sari cloth — readily available also to poor women — that was folded several times had proved to be a very effective filter that could remove zooplankton.

Source: The Hindu