Recommendations: Research Needs
Associated with Pathogens
It is clear that public health agencies in the Great
There is insufficient information on the environmental
Lakes  region  and  elsewhere  must  do  more  to
occurrence, distribution, transport, persistence or ecology
identify  and  quantify  the  potential  threats  of
of pathogens in the Great Lakes.  Monitoring methods that
unregulated  chemicals  and  pathogens  in  waters
rely on bacterial indicators of fecal pollution provide little
or no information on the presence of pathogens, such as
used for human consumption or recreation.
viruses, protozoa or non-fecal bacteria, that may be present
in Great Lakes’ waters and which could affect human
health.  Although some work is being done at specific sites
in the U.S., very little information exists regarding the
prevalence, distribution, sources and persistence of
impacted by urban development, agriculture and other
pathogens in the Great Lakes as a whole, highlighting the
industries.  Several activities impact on the prevalence,
need for increased research.
types and persistence of pathogens in the Great Lakes,
including commercial activities such as foreign shipping,
The Council recommends the following to the IJC:
agriculture and food processing, increased urban develop-
ment leading to storm water runoff, extreme weather
Recommend to the Parties that the following types
events related to climate change, and increased recreational
of research/surveillance be conducted:
swimming and boating.  Some of these activities may lead
Determine the prevalence of selected enteric
to the introduction of “new” pathogens possessing unique
microbial pathogens, and microbial toxins,
genetic attributes, possibly including resistance to a variety
such as cyanobacterial toxins, in the Great
of antibiotics.
Identify sources of microbial pathogens to
Despite improved public sanitation and water treatment in
waters used for human consumption or
the past century, the risk of health effects associated with
recreation, such as from ships’ ballast; waste-
exposure to pathogens and chemicals in the Great Lakes
water treatment plant effluent, storm water
may be increasing.  The combination of three forces may
and agricultural feedlot runoff; boating
cause humans to be more vulnerable to microbial pollu-
wastes—gray and black water; and  septic
Develop testing methods and procedures for
Increased risk of exposure to new pathogens resulting
information exchange to facilitate identifica-
from increasing international commerce (e.g., ballast
tion of pathogens in environmental samples
water, food, immigration).
and enable that data to be compared with
reports of disease outbreaks.
Evolution of microbial resistance to antibiotics due to
Study the environmental ecology of pathogens
their widespread use.
in aquatic systems to find ways to disrupt their
distribution and life cycles before they can
Greater prevalence of individuals with impaired
cause disease in humans.
immune systems due to HIV, Lupus, the use of
Determine the significance of recreational and
immunosuppressive drugs in organ transplant
occupational water exposure to/in the develop-
recipients, etc.
ment of gastrointestinal illness and identify
risk factors.
It is clear that public health agencies in the Great Lakes
Develop strategies and priorities for
region and elsewhere must do more to identify and
remediation, such as the appropriate dis-
quantify the potential threats of unregulated chemicals and
charge of ballast water or black and gray
pathogens in waters used for human consumption or
waters, based on identified risk factors.
Determine the prevalence and persistence of
these pathogens before and after extreme
weather events, and as a result of long-term
climate change, such as lower lake levels or
higher temperatures.