Transmission of H. pylori in drinking water

The dissertation research of Environmental Health Sciences doctoral student Kevin Boehnke focuses on Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that colonizes the human stomach.  

Kevin Boehnke

As well as causing the bulk of peptic ulcer disease, H. pylori has been categorized as a Class I carcinogen due to its recognized causal relationship with gastric cancer. Gastric cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the world, causing over 700,000 deaths annually.  

H. pylori is thought to be transmitted via multiple routes, including from person to person and through reservoirs contaminated with human feces. Kevin’s research focuses specifically on transmission of H. pylori in drinking water in Lima, Peru, and the resulting public health impact. His dissertation seeks to better characterize the risk of waterborne H. pylori and identify ways to mitigate that risk.

Kevin’s dissertation has three components:

·         Population sciences: Collaborating with the Peruvian Ministry of Health and Environmental Quality as well as Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, measuring the quantities of H. pylori in drinking water to which populations in Lima, Peru are exposed.

·         Laboratory sciences: In the laboratory, performing dosing experiments to more accurately estimate the infectious dose of H. pylori in drinking water. Kevin is also evaluating whether traditional household water treatment systems are able to prevent transmission of H. pylori in water.

·         Mathematical modeling: Using mathematical modeling approaches, quantifying the risk of infection from waterborne H. pylori and examining whether household water treatment systems can mitigate that risk.

Characterizing the risk of waterborne H. pylori in Lima and potential mitigation strategies will provide an improved understanding of how to combat this problem.


ITiMS Co-Mentors: Chuanwu Xi, PhD and Joseph Eisenberg, PhD