Budget: 156000

VIROCLIME is an international research consortium of eight research and academic institutions from Spain, UK, Greece, Sweden, Brazil and Hungary. The project started in January 2010 and will finish in December 2012.
VIROCLIME was designed as a deliberate integration of virology and climate change science, and has been created recognizing that both disciplines must interact throughout the project in order to achieve its objectives. This integrated information considers the potential effects on the health of individuals in these areas who may use the water, either for recreation or as drinking water. The use of hydrological models to determine the effects of climate change on the variation in viral flux, and therefore in the risk associated with viral disease, comprises a novel approach to the management of water-related disease.

The driving scientific and policy imperatives of the VIROCLIME proposal have three components. Firstly, that viruses will retain the pre-eminent role in water-related gastro-intestinal disease in any climate change scenario due to the almost ubiquitous presence of some human-derived viruses in sewage and waste water and their environmental robustness; secondly, that although individual and largely qualitative techniques exist, there are currently few tools for routine and quantitative virological environmental monitoring to provide credible health risk quantification; and thirdly, that providing modelers with baseline virological data from different environments will underpin prediction of how virus levels will change as a result of climate change, in addition to the potential population impact of virus levels on disease burden and potential health gain.

The principal policy application for the project outputs will be

  • - To facilitate the first evidence-based assessment of the health impacts of climate change at drainage basin level caused by virological pathogens. This will underpin appropriate policies regarding the costs and benefits – specifically public health costs – of climate change, appropriate resource allocations of effluent and receiving water quality and public risk avoidance by regulating activities and exclusion.
  • - To use the microbial source tracking (MST) tools that have been developed to inform and provide the first evidence-based tools for sustainable and integrated remediation of both diffuse and point sources of microbial pathogenic pollution through the mechanisms established by the Water Framework Directive. These same MST tools will also provide quantifications of the proportionate contributions of current faecal indicator bacterial compliance parameters at regulatory compliance locations, again having significant potential benefits for designing remediation policies seeking to reduce microbial pollution.

  • - To report on the performance characterization of methods developed in the EU, International Cooperation Partner Countries (ICPC) and US laboratories for detecting waterborne human pathogenic viruses in environmental “hot spots”.
  • - To report on the performance characterization of methods developed in the EU, ICPC and US laboratories for the concentration of human pathogenic viruses in aquatic environments in environmental “hot spots”.
  • - To report on the development of improved virological tools for microbial source tracking.
  • - To produce an operational model forced by environmental and water management changes at the target sites that can be calibrated to show changes in virus levels and to facilitate changes in water management strategies.
  • - To provide a report on 18-month surveillance case studies of emergent potentially pathogenic viruses at five environmentally sensitive sites in Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Greece and Brazil.
  • - To report on any relationships linking target virus incidence with incidence of the current faecal indicators Escherichia coli (EC) and intestinal enterococci (IE) and to assess the suitability of current faecal indicators in the face of changing climate scenarios.

Starting date: 01/01/2010
Final date: 31/12/2013

European funded project: FP7: Cooperation: ENVIRONMENT