AOSC Seminar by Dr. Rita Colwell, 2/22/2024
Distinguished University Professor Rita Colwell
Predicting pandemics: What cholera has taught us about COVID-19
Significant advances in technology have brought new discoveries - from the outer reaches of space, where remote sensing monitors on satellites circle the earth, to the ultramicroscopic through application of next generation sequencing and informatics that can be applied to public health. Vibrio cholerae is a useful example of a fundamental linkage of human health to the environment, namely the oceans. The causative agent of cholera, Vibrio cholerae is associated with major epidemics yet it is an aquatic bacterium with a versatile genetics and is distributed globally in bodies of water, notably estuaries, throughout the world. Vibrio species, both nonpathogenic and those pathogenic for humans, marine animals, or marine vegetation, play a fundamental role in nutrient cycling hence cannot be eradicated. They have also been shown to respond to warming of the surface waters of the world oceans, with increase in their numbers correlated with increased incident of infections in humans The cholera prediction model has been successfully modified for COVID-19 and is now being extended to other infectious diseases including Dengue. Other species of Vibrio have been shown to cause disease and, with climate change, the incidence of vibriosis has increased significantly around the world and, in the U.S., from Florida to New England, including Maryland. In summary, microorganisms in the environment can serve as a critical indicator of human health and wellness, with the ubiquitous vibrios in the world oceans offering a model system for public health.
Dr. Rita Colwell is Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Founder of CosmosID, Inc. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health. She has authored or co-authored 20 books and more than 800 scientific publications.
Dr. Colwell served as 11th Director of the National Science Foundation and Co-chair of the Committee on Science, National Science and Technology Council.
Dr. Colwell served as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington Academy of Sciences, and American Society for Microbiology, Sigma Xi National Science Honorary Society, International Union of Microbiological Societies, and American Institute of Biological Sciences. Dr. Colwell is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, Royal Society of Canada, and Royal Irish Academy, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and American Philosophical Society.
Dr. Colwell has been awarded 63 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education and is the recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, bestowed by the Emperor of Japan, 2006 National Medal of Science awarded by the President of the United States, the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize awarded by the King of Sweden, 2018 Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize of Singapore, and 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Microbiology.
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Pre-seminar refreshment: N/A
Seminar: 3:30-4:30pm, Room: ATL 2400(only when in-person)
Meet-the-Speaker: 4:30-5:00pm, Room: ATL 3400(only when in-person) [For AOSC Students only]