Rita R. Colwell

Research and Professional Interests

Dr. Colwell has built her career by tackling some of the most important problems in global infectious diseases, especially waterborne diseases including cholera. Her strategy is to take an holistic approach, rather than focusing only on the pathogen and patient. Pandemics, for example, are affected by climate, adverse weather events, ocean circulation, etc, and Dr. Colwell’s research has helped predict outbreaks based on such environmental variables. This pioneering approach is suitable for populations worldwide, from the poorest in the Bay of Bengal to the wealthiest in the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation and is the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize.  

Selected Publications:

  • Bowler, C., D. M. Karl, Colwell, RR. (2009). Microbial oceanography in a sea of opportunity. Nature. 459(7244): 180--184.
  • Pruzzo, C; Vezzulli, L; Colwell, RR (2008). Global impact of Vibrio cholerae interactions with chitin. Environ. Microbiol., 10 (6): 1400-1410
  • Huq, A; Sack, RB; Nizam, A; Longini, IM; Nair GB; Ali, A; Morris Jr., GJ; Huda Khan, MN; Siddique, A Kasem; Yunus, M; Albert, MJ; Sack, DA; Colwell, RR. (2005). Critical factors influencing the occurrence of Vibrio cholerae in the environment of Bangladesh. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.71 (8): 4645-4654
  • Louis, VR; Gillespie, IA; O'Brien, SJ; Russek-Cohen, E; Pearson, AD; Colwell, RR. (2005). Temperature-driven campylobacter seasonality in England and Wales. Appl. Environ. Microbiol.71 (1): 85-92
  • Colwell, RR (2004). Infectious disease and environment: cholera as a paradigm for waterborne disease. Int. Microbiol., 7 (4): 285-289
  • Alam, M; Sultana, M; Nair, GB; Sack, RB; Sack,DA; Siddique, AK; Ali, A; Huq,A; Colwell, RR. (2006) Toxigenic Vibrio cholerae in the aquatic environment of Mathbaria, Bangladesh Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72 (4): 2849-2855
  • Pruzzo, C; Vezzulli, L; Colwell, RR (2008). Global impact of Vibrio cholerae interactions with chitin. Environ. Microbiol., 10 (6): 1400-1410
  • Alam, M; Sultana, M; Nair, GB; Siddique, AK; Hasan, NA; Sack, RB; Sack, DA; Ahmed, KU; Sadique, A; Watanabe, H; Grim, CJ; Huq, A; Colwell, RR. (2007). Viable but nonculturable Vibrio cholerae O1 in biofilms in the aquatic environment and their role in cholera transmission. PNAS, 104 (45): 17801-17806
  • Phillippy, AM; Mason, JA; Ayanbule, K; Sommer, DD; Taviani, E; Huq, A; Colwell, RR; Knight, IT; Salzberg, SL. (2007). Comprehensive DNA signature discovery and validation. PLOS Comput. Bio., 3 (5): 887-894
  • Jolivet-Gougeon, A; Sauvager, F; Bonnaure-Mallet, M; et al. (2006). Virulence of viable but nonculturable S. Typhimurium LT2 after peracetic acid treatment Int. J. Food Microbiol., 112 (2): 147-152
  • Lee, HS; Kang, SG; Bae, SS; Lim, JK; Cho, Y; Kim, YJ; Jeon, JH; Cha, SS; Kwon, KK; Kim,HT; Park, CJ; Lee, HW; Kim, SI; Chun, J; Colwell, RR; Kim, SJ; Lee, JH. (2008). The Complete Genome Sequence of Thermococcus onnurineus NA1 Reveals a Mixed Heterotrophic and Carboxydotrophic Metabolism. J Bacteriol., 190 (22): 7491-7499
  • Rawlings, TK; Ruiz, GM; Colwell, RR (2007). Association of Vibrio cholerae O1 El Tor and O139 Bengal with the copepods Acartia tonsa and Eurytemora affinis. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 73 (24): 7926-7933
  • Harvell, C.; K. Kim; Burkholder, JM; Colwell, RR; Epstein, PR; Grimes, DJ; Hofmann, EE; Lipp, EK; Osterhaus, ADME; Overstreet, RM; Porter, JW; Smith, JW; Vasta, GR. (1999). "Emerging marine diseases--climate links and anthropogenic factors." Science. 285(5433): 1505.
  • Colwell, R. R. (1996). Global Climate and Infectious Disease: The Cholera Paradigm. Science 274(5295): 2025--2031

Regional Experience:

South Asia: Bangladesh; North America    USA (Chesapeake Bay)

JHU Water Magazine articles authored:

Themes Categories:

Water and Health
Water in the Environment

People Categories:

Magazine Author


Rita Colwell, global infectious diseases, holistic approach, cholera, waterborne diseases