New efforts that are currently underway are attempting to leverage waste water surveillance data to monitor status and predict near term direction of pathogen outbreaks via linking it to patient data based on hospital observations. The overall goal is to identify potential pathogens, the related infection status in the population, and to possibly even predict resurgence of a previously identified pathogen via comparison of sequencing data from hundreds of patients to pathogen detection in a broad sampling of waste water across a given area. This panel which includes public health officers, epidemiologists, and research scientists will focus their debate of this timely subject on what promise and predictive value this approach may hold.
Charles Chiu, M.D./Ph.D. is a Professor at UCSF, Director of the UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center (VDDC), and Associate Director of the UCSF Clinical Microbiology Laboratory. Chiu currently leads a translational research laboratory focused on clinical metagenomic sequencing assay development for infectious diseases and genomic investigation and surveillance of emerging pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. He also uses RNA-Seq transcriptome profiling to develop predictive models using machine learning for host response-based diagnosis of COVID-19 and other infections. Chiu’s work is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), philanthropy, and the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. He has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications (>20 on COVID-19), holds over 15 patents and patent applications, and serves on the scientific advisory board for Mammoth Biosciences, Danaher Dx, Biomesense, and Flightpath.
Dr. Amy Kirby is an Environmental Microbiologist in the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Georgia, a PhD in Microbiology from the University of Buffalo, SUNY, and a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Emory University. At CDC, Dr. Kirby is interested in leveraging environmental microbiology methods to measure pathogens, antibiotic resistance genes, and other health indicators in natural and man-made water systems.
Smruthi works on developing integrated wet-lab and computational biology techniques for studying microbial community dynamics in complex ecosystems. She is also the lead scientist in developing and implementing one of the largest SARS-CoV-2 wastewater surveillance programs. She was a GoMRI (Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative) scholar from 2016-2019. She won the 2018 James D Watkins student award for excellence in research instituted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the ASM (American Society for Microbiology) Student award in 2019. She was selected as a 2019 MIT Rising Star in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She was also chosen as one of ten Rising Stars in Science by Science News SN10 in 2022. Her research has been highlighted on CBS 60 minutes, TIME Magazine, Forbes, NBC Nightly News, Reuters, The New York Times, CNN, The Scientist, Nature, The Conversation, FiveThrityEight, JAMA amongst others.
Seer in the Sewer: Wastewater sequencing for public health