The Secret Way Your Town May Be Able to Stop the Spread of Coronavirus

It turns out the best way to get everyone healthy is by going to the dirtiest place you can imagine.

Up until now, stopping the spread of COVID-19 has meant going above and beyond to avoid anything potentially dirty, from public bathrooms to your very own germ-laden smartphone. And while washing your hands, social distancing, and wearing a face mask are still the best ways to avoid infecting yourself and others, scientists are now turning to a new method to detect and combat new coronavirus outbreaks before they get out of control. How? By using your local sewage treatment plant to test what you flush, CNN reports.

The gross truth is sewage can contain traces of the coronavirus in human feces. By checking for jumps in concentrations of COVID-19, sewage plants would be able to detect and alert authorities so they could begin targeted testing of the area in question.

Scientists in Germany have begun running trials on wastewater in major cities to see if evidence of coronavirus can potentially help pinpoint newly developed hotbeds of the virus. The study is currently focusing on treatment plants in the eastern German city of Leipzig, with each serving anywhere from 100,000 to 600,000 people.

The researchers are hoping that the results could act as an early warning system that would help medical professionals and government officials respond quickly and effectively. "It would be the first test line," microbiologist and lead study author Hauke Harms told CNN.

Unsurprisingly, extracting useful information from all that sewage isn't the easiest job in the world. "We have a high, high volume of wastewaters and it is a challenge to find the traces of the virus in [them]," Rene Kallies, a virologist working on the project, told CNN. But even though scaling the project is a difficult task, the scientists say it could help detect a coronavirus trace surge within just a day and alert local authorities.

Despite the hard work ahead of them, the researchers are confident that through cooperation with other countries, their findings will help create a system that could be in use by the second half of 2020. "I think we can offer something before the next [coronavirus] wave," Harms said. "So if the next wave is coming in fall or early winter or so, then we should have something." And if you're looking for results on a much smaller scale, check out The Secret Way You Can Get a Free Coronavirus Antibody Test.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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