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Michigan State University is now testing spit and sewage in order to predict and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks before they happen.

That's right, spit and sewage.

Researchers began testing wastewater samples from MSU students in April. Dr. Joan Rose leads the program and tells WLNS that surveillance of human wastewater can be beneficial because it can detect that someone is positive before a standard coronavirus test. It can also indicate that people that are exposed to each other, likely using the same bathroom facilities, may need to quarantine before symptoms of the disease are detected.

Rose noted that her department noticed a large spike in positive samples early this summer.

“To our surprise….we looked it coincided with the Harper’s bar outbreak.”

Dozens of cases of COVID-19 were attributed to a large gathering at Harper's Restaurant and Brew Pub in June. The owners temporarily closed the restaurant in order to curb the spread of the disease.

MSU has also begun taking spit samples from students and staff in what they call "Spartan Spit Kits." Students and faculty members sign up to receive a free DIY testing kit in order to be tested before they show any symptoms.

Dr. Jack Lipton is the chairman of the Translational Neuroscience department at MSU.

“If they feel ill we tell them not to give us a sample, our goal is to look for asymptomatic spread…we have found some positive cases which is great because that means those are people who would have gone undetected normally,” Lipton says.

Both programs are designed with early detection of the disease in mind, in an effort to prevent outbreaks from happening.

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