University scientist Dr Huw Taylor helps fight cholera epidemic in Haiti

A University of Brighton scientist is helping fight a cholera epidemic among thousands of earthquake victims in Haiti.

Dr Huw Taylor saw the suffering first-hand during a recent visit to the Caribbean island, and is now working back at the university on a manual on the treatment of cholera wastewaters for future epidemics.

Medicins Sans Frontières (MSF), the French humanitarian organisation, invited Huw to Haiti to help control the spread of the deadly disease.The epidemic recently became so serious that MSF had to convert a partially-constructed maternity hospital in Port-au-Prince into an emergency cholera treatment centre.

MSF discovered that traditional wastewater treatment and disposal methods ran the risk of contaminating drinking water sources. MSF heard of Huw’s expertise and asked him to help design and operate a new treatment plant.With a team of international engineers and local Haitian staff, Dr Taylor designed and monitored the treatment plant and trained local staff to run a water-quality laboratory that he set up.

Huwr described how desperate conditions have led to greater dangers for aid workers, explaining: “MSF provides all staff and consultants with US $100 to hand over quickly in case of armed attacks, along with a note in Creole to say that MSF does not pay ransom demands.”

Despite the dangers, Huw said he was glad he had been able to help: “You never know when your research work will find its most useful application.”

Huw carried out his postdoctoral research in Brazil to develop a low-cost treatment system for urban wastewater. His research at the University of Brighton’s School of Environment and Technology focuses on the ecology of waterborne pathogens and methods for monitoring the quality of drinking and recreational waters.In 1998, he set up the university’s Environment & Public Health Research Unit, a centre for excellence in waterborne disease research and in postgraduate research training, with six PhD students having graduated in recent years and another six currently studying.

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