The next time tourists need to visit the toilet on board an aircraft, it's worth considering whether they want their feces to be at the disposal of scientists . If so, then the path is clear. Why did the researchers need a tank full of human excrement and water? stored and analyzed. At least, this is what happens at airports in the United States, where the practice of collecting and then analyzing the contents of the tank from the air bathroom has recently taken root.
It turns out that airborne deposits can be useful for both tracking and combating the spread of various diseases, including the coronavirus. So the official reason for collecting feces looks quite peaceful. The scientists believe that the aircraft's wastewater will allow them to learn what new variants are entering their countries and from where. This means that, in theory, they could be aware of any potentially harmful mutations before the diseases spread.
This idea was proposed some time ago in the US, but the fears of the US authorities about new variants of covid have moved this scheme forward. Rather than dismissing the idea as odd, airports were actually happy to work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As Laura Bronner of Ginkgo Bioworks told The Atlantic, “There were a few airports that actually approached the CDC to be part of the program.”
In turn, scientists also said that they like this type of observation because the results can remain completely anonymous and receive biomaterial without registering passengers. In addition, it has proven to be much cheaper and less invasive than PCR testing, making it preferred for this type of research.
However, unlike individual testing, scientists will not inform people on the plane whether covid has been detected or not. It was also emphasized that medical professionals and authorities would not use the results for contact tracing, as the main goal is to identify new variants of mutations and determine how dangerous they can be, and not to search for a specific patient on a flight.
Indeed, it is impossible to think of a better public place for collecting this biomaterial. Judge for yourself. A huge number of tourists pass through airports every day, arriving at their destinations from all over the world. Rob Knight, professor of medical engineering at the University of California, San Diego, explained the new practice this way: “You're going to analyze people who have come from other parts of the world, so they can bring new options.”
Together with Meanwhile, the scientists ran into some small problems in testing, with choosing the right aircraft for analysis one of the biggest problems. They need to make sure the flights they choose have a high percentage of toilet use to justify them when analyzing water tanks.
Casandra Philipson, who leads the Concentric bioinformatics program, told The Atlantic: , which we had about how to discreetly find out how many people on the flight went to the toilet, just hysterical. Although they have no plans to actually control the use of air toilets by passengers, they should take this into account when scheduling flights to be included in their data.
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