Sewage samples obtained by scientists in Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa were found to contain 43,381 viruses — of which only 3,000 are currently charted by mainstream scientists.
Among the viruses found in the sewage samples were the human papilloma virus (HPV), the diarrhea-causing Norwalk virus, and the common cold virus. There were 16 total known disease-causing viruses out of the 3,000 known viruses present in the sewage samples.
The findings of the study, which highlight the vast number of unidentified viruses dwelling in our sewer systems, are hosted in the online journal mBIO, published by the American Society of Microbiology.
Considering that only 3,000 of the 43,381 viruses examined have been charted and identified, there could be a large number of superbugs and other powerful viruses routinely developing and going through mutation due to exposure to thousands of other viruses and bacteria within the sewage system. Improper sewage control could serve as a breeding ground for new strands of viruses and a cocktail of existing ones.
“Our knowledge of the viral universe is limited to a tiny fraction of the viruses that exist,” the study’s authors write.
With over 2 million known species inhabiting the earth, each has adapted to live with viruses that live on or within its members. These viruses can often spread to other species through mutation, such as the H5N1 bird flu which mutated to affect humans. While there may be cases of human weaponization of various viruses, leading to even more complications, even ‘natural’ mutations pose a risk.
As of right now, scientists report that over 80% of these viruses lurking in the sewage are not yet capable of infecting humans nor similar complex organisms made up of complicated cells. Problems arise, however, as these viruses are given the proper environment for mutation to occur, subsequently expanding its potential ability to infect a wider range of organisms.
While on such a small scale this could take unknown amounts of time, the viruses which are currently affecting livestock and other animals may soon experience mutation to the degree required to affect humans.
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