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Arnold School of Public Health

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Located at the University of South Carolina, OHHC2I is proud to announce research partnerships with The College of Charleston, Baylor University, The Citadel, and the University of Maryland’s Environmental Science Center. In addition OHHC2I has established research collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Program and the Low Country Alliance for Model Community. The goal of OHHC2I is to enhance our knowledge of the roles climate change may play in affecting Vibrio bacterial infections and production of toxins from freshwater cyanobacteria, both of which may adversely affect human health.

About the OHHC2I

The program will develop tools to better inform the public of health risks associated with these organisms and with the occurrence of microplastic waste in coastal waters. Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in coastal and ocean waters, and Vibrio infections are the leading cause of death from seafood consumption in the U.S. Serious infections also occasionally result from recreational contact with contaminated waters. The toxins from certain cyanobacteria are the most frequently detected harmful algal toxins in U.S. waters and occur mostly in freshwater but also may be carried into or grow in coastal brackish water areas.

Because of the breadth of health threats from these kinds of microorganisms and the likelihood that climate change may increase health risks associated with them, the Center is undertaking four highly collaborative and integrated research projects (Vibrio Bacteria, Cyanobacteria, Chemistry and Toxicology) to examine how climate change may affect them.

A multi-factorial design will examine how changes in temperature, salinity, and pH associated with climate change and gradients of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) will affect changes in virulence and antibiotic resistance in Vibrio vulnificus and V. parahaemolyticus) and increased growth, bloom and toxin production in selected cyanobacteria (Microcystin aeruginosa, Cylindrospermopsis raciborkii and Anaebaena flor-aquae).  

Researchers also will assess the individual and cumulative effects of highly virulent Vibrio bacteria, microcystin toxins, and microplastics (a Contaminant of Emerging Concern) on mammalian exposure models, studying effects on critical organs, inflammation, and specific health problems like non-alcoholic liver disease. Sediment cores from lake bottoms will be analyzed for relic levels of cyanobacterial toxins and will be dated using radio-isotopes for comparison with historical changes in climate. Biogeochemical transport and transformation of Vibrios, cyanobacterial toxins, and microplastics, alone and in mixtures will also be studied, along with potential exposure mechanisms and resulting toxicology in mammalian models and in molluscan shellfish.

Community Engagement

Information from all of the research projects will provide critical input for a Community Engagement Core which will help translate technical findings into informational products and forecasts that alert the public and better protect public health.  Minority and Environmental Justice communities involved in the Engagement Core also participate in identifying important areas for research and implementation of Center work, with contributions incorporated across all Center activities. All of the research and engagement projects are managed by an Administrative Core (Director and Deputy Director) who operate the Center on a daily basis and oversee the collaboration and integration of the projects.  


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