Sewage could reveal true scope of coronavirus outbreak, scientists say

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/04/04/sewage-could-reveal-true-scope.html

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What a shitty idea.

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A great idea for strategic surveillance. It will give you a picture of where you stand on a city or town level. For more detail, then consult Sangamon Taylor (see Zodiac).

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It’s a great idea. It could even be used at the neighborhood level, by sampling at lift stations or even manholes.

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So John Snow did know something.

< look it up >

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This is a development I have been dreading for some time.

We all flush a lot of personally identifying information through sewers – our complete genome, our diet, the prescription and illegal drugs we’re taking, our eating and sleeping patterns, our sexual activity, and more besides – and none of it has any legal protection. If someone has physical access to sewers, it’s theirs for the taking.

If the first cases of cloacal data harvesting center on unimpeachable public-health purposes, that’s going to make it all the harder to spotlight the privacy threat. We might even get laws against sewage privacy rights before the problem is recognised.

And I’m ultra-suspicious of sci-fi solutions to covid-19 anyway. If a society can’t test for a virus in people who obviously have it, then it probably can’t invent and deploy a whole new detection technology at massive scale overnight.

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Upvoted for the term

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Why not apply the technique to the air pollen samples being collected in most urban areas? A positive test would indicate a need for personal protection in specific areas.

Beware animated bar stool.

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Great! Now I get to say “I’m gonna go flatten the curve”!

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They aren’t the first cases.

Testing and tracking are not sci-fi solutions.

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Indeed. Testing sewage for drug use at the epidemiological level is well-established.

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Sludge posts video of sludge?

Well played!

Another interesting use of viruses isolated from sewage: phage therapy.

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I’m curious how reliable this could get in different sewer set ups. Most older cities have highly heterogeneous sewer systems. As an example, all newer connections in my area are a fully separated storm and sanitary sewer. The older sections of the system are still combined sewer overflows. Later attempts to mitigate the CSO issue have created giant reservoirs, which are basically giant tunnels. It is all to easy to imagine the results being inconsistent enough to require the kind of massive data collection that would make it useless on any monitoring scale for an active disease.

Raison d’etre.

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To my mind, we already have a semi-legal framework to handle this. Common law has many prior cases of squatter’s rights.

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Or perhaps, “bump the lump” ?

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