Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Laboratory Team

Team Lead: Jennifer Murphy, PhD

The lead laboratory unit for domestic and global water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)-related disease found in the natural environment in CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.

Our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Laboratory Team conducts:

  • Diagnostics for free-living ameba infections
  • Water-related outbreak investigations
  • Molecular surveillance for Giardia and Cryptosporidium
  • Water disinfection research
  • Serologic assay development

Our WASH laboratory team also works with laboratories, subject matter experts, and programs around CDC.

Graphic: Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch WASH Laboratory Team organizational chart. Laboratories consisting of Environmental Microbiology, Molecular Epidemiology, Free-Living Amebas, and Serology.

Graphic: Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Graphic: Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory Graphic: Free-Living Amebas Laboratory Graphic: Serology Laboratory

Lab Units

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Murphy, PhD
Photo: Water disinfection research

Water disinfection research

Photo: Water sampling using ultrafiltration

Water sampling using ultrafiltration

Mission: Developing and applying methods for environmental sampling, microbial detection, and treatment technologies to prevent WASH-related disease.

Our laboratory:

  • Supports water-related emergency preparedness and outbreak investigations
  • Conducts environmental sampling
    • Water, wastewater, soil, sediment, biosolids, filters, and other environmental samples
  • Completes environmental sample analyses
    • Quantifies and/or detects viruses, bacteria, and parasites using culture, molecular, and microscopy methods
  • Develops and tests new environmental sample detection methods
  • Develops and improves disinfection and treatment methods for drinking water and recreational water
  • Conducts environmental investigations to identify  pathogens and indicators of fecal contamination
  • Studies waterborne parasite biology & Cryptosporidium oocyst production
  • Provides training on environmental sampling techniques and associated analytical methods
Environmental Microbiology Laboratory Highlights
Principal Investigator: Lihua Xiao, DVM, PhD
Photo: Molecular analysis of clinical and water samples
Molecular analysis of clinical and water samples

Mission: Developing and applying advanced molecular detection (AMD) methods for parasitic disease surveillance and outbreak investigations to prevent waterborne, foodborne, and zoonotic diseases.

Our laboratory:

  • Investigates the molecular and genomic epidemiology of zoonotic parasites in humans and animals in the context of One Health
  • Genotypes and subtypes waterborne and foodborne protozoan pathogens (Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Cyclospora, Microsporidia, Naegleria fowleri) in clinical and environmental samples
  • Tracks sources and spread of protozoan parasites using advanced molecular detection tools
  • Develops and manages CryptoNet–CDC’s first  molecular surveillance system for a parasite–a DNA sequence-based system for understanding U.S. transmission of cryptosporidiosis
Molecular Epidemiology Laboratory Highlights
Principal Investigator: Ibne Ali, PhD
Photo: Specimen analysis for free-living amebas
Specimen analysis for free-living amebas

Mission: Developing and applying diagnostic methods and drug therapies for opportunistic and pathogenic free-living and intestinal amebas to prevent future infections.

(A) For free-living amebas our laboratory:

  • Diagnoses amebic infections, including pathogenic free-living Acanthamoeba spp., Balamuthia mandrillaris, Naegleria fowleri, and Sappinia using real-time PCR and immunofluorescence techniques
  • Detects and identifies free-living amebas in environmental samples
  • Develops and assesses drug therapies for free-living amebic infections
  • Investigates genome sequences of free-living amebas
  • Develops serologic methods for diagnosis of free-living amebic infections
  • Photo: Balamuthia mandrillaris trophozoite and cyst
    Balamuthia mandrillaris trophozoite and cyst
  • Develops simple ELISA-based method for diagnosis of free-living amebas
  • Investigates stage-specific proteome of free-living amebas

(B) For intestinal amebas our laboratory:

  • Diagnoses amebic infections, including Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba dispar using real-time PCR
  • Detects E. histolytica specific antibodies in serum samples using  ELISA method
  • Detects genotypes of infecting ameba using tRNA gene-linked typing method
  • Develops novel genotyping and SNP-based methods for differentiation of clinical strains of E. histolytica
  • Tests and assesses new drug therapies for intestinal amebic infections
  • Investigates genomic differences that may account for differential outcome of infections using next generation sequencing techniques
Photo: Naegleria fowleri in a brain section
Naegleria fowleri in a brain section
Free-Living & Intestinal Amebas Laboratory Highlights
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Priest, PhD
Photo: Flow Cytometry
Multiplex bead serological assay

Mission: Developing multiplex serologic assays for use in surveillance and epidemiologic surveys to understand the spread of infectious disease.

Our laboratory:

  • Identifies and expresses antigenic targets for new serological assays
  • Develops Luminex bead-based serological assays for parasitic, viral, and bacterial infections
  • Applies serological assays to surveillance and epidemiologic studies of pre- and post-public health intervention populations
  • Conducts flow cytometry analysis and sample sorting to support scientific investigations