Joint Project: The Global Impact of Terrestrial Surface Waters on the Distribution of Water-Related Infectious Diseases


Infectious diseases remain among the leading causes of deaths and disability worldwide. Great efforts have been made to understand the impacts of environmental, ecological, and socio- economic factors on global patterns of these diseases, while poorly understood is the impact of hydrological processes, particularly those related to dynamic patterns of terrestrial surface waters. For example, to what extent do wetlands, floodplains, lakes, and reservoirs influence the distribution and incidence of water-related infectious diseases? Is this a simple relationship where a growing body of water coupled with a pathogen yields an incremental number of infected people? Many complicating factors, such as biology of pathogens, ecological changes, and status of ecological development, are involved. Through an interdisciplinary approach of epidemiology and hydrology, we propose to examine the relationship between spatial and temporal variations in terrestrial surface water and the distribution, emergence, and re-emergence of water-related infectious diseases at regional and global scales. OSU is well-suited for this work. We are the hydrologic home for a new NASA satellite mission specifically designed to measure all of the world's freshwater bodies. Our hydrology and epidemiology expertise is well recognized, including publications in Nature, Science, and PNAS. The opportunity for future funding from NASA, NIH, and several foundations is substantial.

Project Status

In this pilot project our overall objectives are to understand if the changes in the space and time patterns and in the availability of global terrestrial surface waters have any impact on the distribution, emergence, and re-emergence of water-related infectious diseases.

We are currently working on the following:

  1. Constructing a global database for water-related infectious diseases and environmental, ecological, and socio-economic parameters
  2. Developing a global water database by the use of remote sensing to estimate key parameters associated with terrestrial surface water resources at the global scale

The following are future aims:

  1. Test the hypothesis that changes in spatio-temporal distributions of terrestrial surface water drive the emergence and re-mergence of water-related infectious diseases
  2. Develop a predictive risk model and generate risk maps of water-related infectious diseases


Song Liang
Environmental Health Sciences
College of Public Health