The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville


Dr. Brian Reed Investigates Water Safety in the Smokies

First-year Internal Medicine resident Brian Reed, MD, is extending his passion for helping others outside of the UT Graduate School of Medicine. Dr. Reed, a native Knoxvillian, is conducting a study on the quality of water along the Appalachian trail. Stemming from a childhood passion for the outdoors and curiosity regarding the need for water treatment for hikers, Dr. Reed has set up 10 sampling sites at various locations in the Smoky Mountains. Samples were collected from each location twice in 2012, plated in the lab, and incubated for 24 hours before being monitored for coliform growth. The second part of this project involves help from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in performing DNA sequencing to assess for the presence of Giardia, Cryptococcus, and other microorganisms. Results of these studies are pending, but Dr. Reed already has future plans in securing safe drinking water for hikers.

"I most often hear along the trail, ‘Is this water safe to drink?'" Dr. Reed said. "I recommend they go ahead and treat the water. Our data shows some water sources are free from coliform bacteria without treatment. However, the data in regard to parasites is still pending. With the easy availability and wide range of treatment options, it's better to err on the side of caution."

Water treatment options include boiling or filtering the water. Dr. Reed said staying hydrated is definitely of concern for any activity, especially those located outdoors. If a hiker plans to stay on the trail for any extended period of time, it would be wise to have some water on hand, if not also a method of treating water for an emergency situation.

May 23, 2013



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