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Georgia College professor leads research in harmful bacteria in local waters

Microbiology Professor Andrei Barkovskii created a course where students test water and marine life for pathogens that cause illness

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Georgia College Professor Andrei Barkovsii's passion for the sea and love for scuba diving led to his work in identifying water pathogens.

Those are harmful organisms that can cause illness.

"After all of my visits to Southeastern Asia in my primary, I learned that water pathogens are on the rise. On the rise and some few events around Georgia and around the states kind of pushed me into developing the course," he said.

He started a research project with Georgia College students identifying harmful bacteria in water samples from Georgia's coast.

"We collect water, we collect dirt from the bottom, sediments, we collect water organisms like oysters and we test them for the presence of particular harmful bacteria. In this case, Vibrio kind of related to Cholera -- not necessarily Cholera -- but the same group of organisms with different effects," Barkovskii said.

These illnesses usually cause intestinal infections and severe dehydration.
Barkovskii says monitoring water pathogens is important to finding whether water or foods are safe for human consumption.

"We need to know whether whatever we get from the ocean or from the lake or from the river is safe to eat, and if there's a risk how high risk is, so therefore, do you want to take that risk or not? Or, how to properly cook that so you will not have a risk. Therefore, this is definitely about public health," he said.

Through the course he encourages students to take up scuba diving and to study the health of coral reefs and underwater ecosystems. He says many of them do.

"We'll stay in touch. We will exchange stories about that and pictures and, 'Look at this. Isn't it pretty? Look at that. Isn't it devastating?'," he said.

Barkovskii has 40 students in Georgia College's microbiology program and up to seven students working in the lab on the water pathogen research.