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Team of Virginia Tech researchers taps into wastewater antibiotic-resistant gene monitoring

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 6:05 PM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - A group of researchers at Virginia Tech has teamed up to create a computer software system called CI-WARS. CI-WARS stands for Cyberinfrastructure for Waterborne Antibiotic Resistance Risk Surveillance. The system will help analyze when germs no longer respond to antibiotics made to kill them in wastewater - which is called antibiotic resistance.

“In the long run, we foresee that we can set up or develop a system that can not only detect COVID but can also detect unknown, still-to-be-discovered kinds of bacteria or viruses,” said computer scientist Ali R. Butt.

With a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, computer science researchers Liqing Zhang and Ali R. Butt, Amy Pruden and Peter Vikesland will all build the cyberinfrastructure system.

“So you have to have computer programs too or software to process and analyze them,” said computer science researcher Liqing Zhang.

Monitoring antibiotic resistance in wastewater can help communities spot a public health concern before you see people getting sick.

“People don’t often think what happens after they flush the toilet and that’s okay but because maybe this can open people’s eyes that maybe sewage, it may seem gross, but it’s actually a rich resource for information,” said microbiologist Amy Pruden.

The computer system will be able to help researchers improve treatment to prevent the release of harmful bacteria or viruses in water. To learn more about their research click here.

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