Pioneering research on the prevention of waterborne infectious diseases - efforts which have helped protect the health and lives of millions - has earned the twentieth consecutive presentation of the $150,000 Stockholm Water Prize this year for Dr. Rita Colwell, a professor from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

On Sept. 9 during the 2010 Stockholm Water Week, Dr. Colwell will be bestowed the prize in formal ceremonies from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, the prize's patron, at a Royal Award Ceremony in Stockholm City Hall. She also receives an Orrefors commemorative crystal sculpture.


Outstanding in science, technology and policy associated with water and health, Dr. Colwell, 76, has contributed to halting cholera's deadly explosion worldwide. Cholera is caused by waterborne pathogen. Each year, it infects 3-5 million people and leads to an estimated 120,000 deaths.

According to the prize awarding organization, the Stockholm International Water Institute, her work has established a basis for environmental and infectious disease risk assessment that is now used around the world.

"Dr. Rita Colwell’s numerous seminal contributions towards solving the world’s water and water-related public health problems, particularly her work to prevent the spread of cholera, is of utmost global importance", noted the Stockholm Water Prize Nominating Committee in its citation.

In the 1990s, Dr. Colwell researched the impacts of climate change on the spread of infectious diseases and observed that Vibrio cholera, the causative agent for cholera, could survive by attaching itself to zoo plankton. This led to her discovery that certain bacteria, including the Vibrio species, can enter a dormant stage that could revert to an infectious state under the proper conditions.

"Through her research on its physiology, ecology, and metabolism, Dr. Colwell advanced the fields of mathematics, genetics and remote sensing technology and not only as they relate to these bacteria but to the prevention other diseases in many developing countries," added committee spokespersons.

At the forefront of science and technology, Dr. Colwell has furthermore helped create bioinformatics and has also adopted remote sensing technology using satellite imaging to track, predict and prevent outbreaks of cholera. She has served as director of the National Science Foundation, as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and, among numerous other honors and roles, has been awarded 54 honorary degrees.
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