Tracking outbreaks through airplane poop

A team of far too curious Danish researchers has been collecting feces from airplane bathrooms to study bacteria by region, which could help scientists understand disease outbreaks.

airplane.shurleyTo conduct the study, the scientists literally transported feces back to a lab where they fed it through a DNA sequencing machine. The technology reveals antimicrobial resistance genes and any pathogens. From this data, they are able to analyze any patterns occurring in the plane’s country of origin.

For example, scientists detected far more genetic microbial resistance among people from South America. They even found specific differences between certain bacteria like Salmonella, which occurred more frequently in South Asia versus Clostridium, which was more common in North America.

As far as outbreaks, the report showed that analyzing feces could be a faster way to detect an epidemic than just analyzing doctor reports because the DNA sequencing shows sudden spikes in certain bacteria.