In a recent collaboration with Tufts University in the United States, our researchers examined the effectiveness of disinfection protocols used at Ebola Treatment Centres (ETC). A series of experiments were conducted to improve existing protocols and to help develop new ways to dispose of human excreta safely during Ebola outbreaks. The aim of this work is to prevent the onward transmission of Ebola from infected human waste in emergency settings, but the work has ready applications in other disease outbreak settings.
The researchers compared the ability of chlorine- and lime-based disinfection methods to remove bacterial and viral indicator organisms (bacteriophages) from human excreta. This initially involved pilot-scale experiments, but the work was extended to full-scale experiments that better mimic on-site conditions during disease outbreaks. The collaboration provided important new information on the behaviour and die-off of viruses in human excreta and the findings will provide humanitarian organisations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam with the scientific evidence they need to better protect human health during disasters.
The project ran from June 2015 to June 2016.
The project aimed to compare established disinfection protocols currently used by humanitarian organisations with novel approaches to enable global public health policy-makers, such as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to provide evidence-based advice on sanitation practice during disease outbreaks.
Following the Ebola outbreak in East Africa, there remains an urgent need to develop more effective disinfection practices for the medical and faecal waste produced by treatment centres in disaster settings. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with additional support from the Body Shop Foundation, this project hopes to support better practices following outbreaks of many other infectious disease.
The findings are of considerable international interest and will contribute to a growing body of knowledge that will potentially help to reduce the risk of serious disease for people in vulnerable communities for many years.
Read Limitations of chlorine disinfection of human excreta: Implications for ebola disease control
Professor Huw Taylor
Dr James Ebdon
Dr Danielle Lantagne, Usen Family Career Development Assistant Professor (Tufts University USA)
Dr Diogo Trajano
Dr Edgard Dias
Trajano, DGS, Dias, E, Ebdon, J and Taylor, H (2016) Limitations of chlorine disinfection of human excreta: Implications for Ebola disease control, 39th WEDC Conference, Kumasi, Ghana.
Environment and Public Health Research Group