Covid-19 Diaries: Innovator insights. We have been receiving insights, predictions, and recommendations on Covid-19 from the innovator network. They’ve been great. Many are proving ahead of their time. Engineer, John G Whellock, PhD, suggested using sewage systems to track Covid-19 on April 2, a day before Nature published a report detailing multiple research groups’ progress into doing exactly that. It’s the kind of foreword thinking that comes from people wired to look at problems through an innovator’s lens.
by John G Whellock
Submitted: April 2, 2020
I’ve been thinking about the transmission of this virus quite a bit and I wondered if there are problems at sewage works with the aerobic digesters? I am thinking here of the entry part of a basin where the sewage has only been screened and is still pretty raw yet is being highly aerated. These facilities are essentially massive generators of aerosols and droplets that must have surrounding potential for contamination. With a strong wind blowing I imagine the rose of contamination could easily be half a mile from the source.
So I asked a colleague of mine who has been in this field for several years and was high up in the Ontario Waste Water treatment industry for some time, is there a potential for aerosol transmission at this point and do workers or even local vicinities ever get affected by this?
He indicated: “Bacteria and viruses have been known to be released from sewage treatment plants in aerosols for decades. The aerosols are generated at the headworks and anywhere there is aeration or a significant loss in head as in overflows at weirs and channels. It’s not been recognized as a public health risk except perhaps to the operators but they typically develop an immunity because of the continuous exposure. The secondary treatment processes and sludge digestion processes eliminate all bacteria and viruses – that’s why they were put in place. “
The workers at sewage works would be a small group of people that could be studied, tested or monitored for antibodies and their statistics would be useful in determining transmission, how many succumb to the virus or develop immunity. Thereby leading to more effective methods of mitigation.
This following article was interesting in that it suggested mapping of the outbreak could be carried out by testing the sewage facilities:
My thought is that the combination of the sets of data could be very beneficial at this time.
The recent transmission statistics at a choir practice in Seattle suggest that merely breathing, speaking or singing might be enough to produce aerosolized virus transmission?
Further, thinking about aeration basins, there would be a good argument for wholesale conversion of these to anaerobic digesters in the future.
John G Whellock
Submitted: April 28, 2020
Sometime ago I was reading about the possibility of helminths, (live whipworms), being used to treat ailments like inflammatory bowel syndrome, IBS and rheumatoid arthritis, RA. It seemed that there was quite a lot of anecdotal support for this and people were even self-treating. Some research came out of Germany where they were able to grow pig whipworms under controlled circumstances. There was a lot of evidence from Africa in general that the worm presence in the gut of native Africans reduced the prevalence of autoimmune diseases like IBS and RA. Some research has begun in this field either on the helminths themselves as agents or their potential excreta. (1)
As the Covid 19 virus seems to attack the autoimmune system and some doctors have suggested a “cytokine storm” response resulting in the complete capitulation of breathing, (2) might it be possible to invoke these little characters as potential agents?
I see some virtue in such an approach: it could be trialed very easily and has risks that can be easily assessed and with which there has been some experience already. Moreover, if successful, it could be implemented at scale quickly.
1) Helminth Immunomodulation in Autoimmune Disease Taylor B. Smallwood et al, Front Immunol. Publ on-line 2017 Apr 24 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5401880/#
2) NPR The Corona Virus: Why Some COVID-19 Patients Crash: The Body’s Immune System Might Be To Blame, April 7, 2020 https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/04/07/828091467/why-some-covid-19-patients-crash-the-bodys-immune-system-might-be-to-blame
John G. Whellock, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of JW Technologies, LLC, Denver.
Dr. Whellock has a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering and over 30 years experience in the development and implementation of process plants and projects. His doctorate from Birmingham University, U.K involved Fluid Bed Combined Cycle Combustion for Power Production. He is a Chartered Engineer, UK, a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers. JW Technologies, LLC, is an engineering company providing technology and process equipment in the fields of thermal processing for precious and non-ferrous metals and minerals. More recently his work has involved evaluation of pyrolysis technology and alternative energy processes. He has extensive experience in project management, plant design, start-up and optimization and has authored numerous patents and over 30 technical articles.
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