Researchers Find More Than 43,000 Viruses in Sewage

Better get the HazMat suit next time you head down a manhole.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Oct 6, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

Just in case we didn't scare you enough with that blockbuster disease thriller that kicked butt at the box office earlier this fall, here's a bit of news to get you reaching for that Purell.

Scientists working in Pittsburgh, Barcelona and Addis Ababa have discovered more than 43,000 previously unknown viruses swimming around in sewage floating beneath those major cities.

Yup. You read that number right. 43,000

Compare that to the relatively miniscule number of known viruses that scientists have discovered to date: just about 3,000. And of those 43,000 we talked about above, only 17—yup, 17—were known to infect humans. That leaves open the possibility that there's a whole slew of microbial monsters out there that could possibly infect you.

Now, before you reach for the HazMat suit or climb into your airtight panic room, you can take some solace in the fact that not all viruses cause disease. And yes, while there are viruses jumping over from animals to humans all the time, there are also some pretty remarkable people on the hunt for these new threats who are working to make sure we understand what they are. 

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