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Tracing human waste can detect COVID-19 before an infected person shows symptoms


COLUMBIA, Mo. (KTVI)– The University of Missouri is hard at work tracking the coronavirus through wastewater. 

Professors and students on Mizzou’s campus have found that human waste can trace COVID-19 before a person knows they have contracted the virus.

“When someone is infected with COVID they not only have it in their nose but they also excrete it from the other end,” Professor Marc Johnson said.

Johnson and fellow professor and researcher Chung-Ho Lin have been studying wastewater for the Coronavirus Sewershed Surveillance Project.

“Just one water sample can tell the story of the whole community,” Lin said. “By testing the wastewater, it gives us a tour for much, much early warning to catch that signal.”

Johnson said what makes this pandemic incredibly difficult is that authorities don’t know who is infected.

Johnson and Lin are able to conduct their research through wastewater facilities across the state sending them about half a cup of wastewater to their lab. It is then filtered and tested for coronavirus. Their research can stop the spread of COVID-19 before a person even shows symptoms.

They haven’t finished their results yet. They will test waste from 80 facilities in Missouri. This research is being done across the country.

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