Name: Luke Hillary
Project title: Reducing the risk of viral contamination of the UK’s food and water supply
Where based: Bangor University
I completed my MBiolSci at the University of Sheffield in 2009 in Biochemistry and Microbiology and spent two years at the University of York investigating protein-protein interactions in E. coli. I subsequently trained as a secondary school chemistry teacher and taught in several schools in Leeds and North Yorkshire. In 2017, I returned to research by joining STARS at Bangor University.
I am examining how sewage sludge treatments affect the viral communities of soil. At present, we know that human pathogenic viruses such as hepatitis and norovirus can be detected in both sewage sludge and soil. What we don’t have is an overall understanding of how long these viruses persist in the soil, what affects this persistence, and for how long viruses remain infective. Sludge-amended soils have the potential to act as reservoirs of pathogenic viruses which could leach into watercourses over time or during storm events, or contaminate crops and livestock. By combining viral metagenomics with qPCR and infectivity studies, I am aiming to increase our understanding of the flow of viruses through this underexplored route, and address the possible policy implications for sludge disposal as part of food production.