Postdoctoral scholar joins Eck Institute for Global Health and Environmental Change Initiative in fight against cholera

Uganda 4 2010 boy gathers water

Globally, one in four people lack access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization and UNIFEF’s Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. In low and middle income nations such as India, where safely managed drinking water is limited, microbial contamination, which can increase the likelihood of disease, is responsible for over 6% of the nation’s deaths each year. By developing innovative methods to predict the outbreak of water-borne bacterial diseases, researchers at the University of Notre Dame are working to address clean water disparities and to advance local sanitation standards.

“My dream has always been to contribute research toward addressing the most crippling conditions of low and middle income countries,” explains Neda Jalali, biostatistician and postdoctoral fellow for the Eck Institute for Global Health and the Environmental Change Initiative, “and cholera is most certainly one of these conditions.” Jalali joins the research group of Sean Moore, Research Assistant Professor of the Department of Biological Sciences in investigating diarrheal diseases such as cholera, which account for the death of over half a million children under the age of five annually.

Cholera is caused by exposure to the bacterium Vibrio cholerae through contaminated food or water. In some cases, cholera causes severe dehydration and death within only a few hours. Prevalent in communities throughout parts of Bangladesh, Eastern Africa, and India with poor or limited sanitation, cholera can be preventable where safely managed water standards, hygiene practices, and infrastructure are in place.

Neda Jalali, postdoc headshot
Neda Jalali, postdoctoral scholar

Jalali’s research goals are to achieve a better understanding of the global burden of cholera and to provide direction on how to improve community sanitation standards. International reporting of cholera outbreaks currently contain only small amounts of information due to limitations in surveillance systems, concerns of potential impacts on tourism, and the inconsistencies in patient-reported symptoms.

To address the global burden, Jalali’s work will rely on her doctoral experience in modeling infectious diseases. She received her PhD from the University of Florida in 2021, and has implemented mathematical and statistical methods of analyzing infectious diseases, including the analysis of COVID-19 contact tracing data while working at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Jalali and Moore will use a database of 20 years of collected cholera research in combination with the analysis of a wider range of choleric-indicative factors—including changes in climate, socioeconomic, and environmental co-variants—to develop a disease forecasting model to provide predictive information on endemic cholera hotspots.

The results of this research may have far-reaching applications in forecasting other diarrheal and water-borne diseases. By 2030, the Global Task Force on Cholera Control has a goal of eliminating cholera worldwide. Jalali’s work will contribute towards this objective.

For more information about this project, and other mathematical and statistical applications for studying infectious disease, please visit the Perkins Lab website.

The Eck Institute for Global Health and Environmental Change Initiative’s joint postdoctoral fellowship invites outstanding postdocs to pursue research and training which targets the intersection of the environment and global health. Interested scholars can find more information about eligibility and the submission process on the Environmental Change Initiative website.

Christine Grashorn, Communications Specialist
Notre Dame Research / University of Notre Dame / 574.631.4856 / @UNDResearch

About the Eck Institute for Global Health
The Eck Institute for Global Health (EIGH), an integral part of Notre Dame Research, builds on the University’s historical strength in infectious disease research while broadening the scope of our expertise to include Epidemiology, Molecular biology and microbiology, Computational science, Community health, Genetics and genomics, Biochemistry, Non-communicable diseases and Social sciences. Our team of interdisciplinary researchers and their students holistically address health disparities around the world. EIGH faculty affiliates recognize health as a fundamental human right and promote research, training, and service to advance health standards for all people, especially those in resource-poor countries who are disproportionately impacted by preventable diseases. The EIGH is training the next generation of global health researchers and leaders through undergraduate, Master of Science in Global Health, doctoral, and postdoctoral programs.

About the Environmental Change Initiative
The Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI) includes faculty across several disciplines who are pursuing research solutions for the environmental challenges of our time. ND-ECI focuses on globally significant, multidisciplinary research that can be translated into management and policy solutions to help make the world a better place for humans and the environment upon which people depend. ND-ECI faculty are spearheading innovative research focused on how environmental change intersects with hydrology, ecology, climate change, agriculture, and environmental genomics. By fostering an interdisciplinary community, ND-ECI engages faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate and undergraduate students who work to provide solutions that minimize the trade-offs between human welfare and environmental health.