Interested in gauging a population’s health? Look to sewage

by John Carey

Researchers are mining the stuff we excrete to get a window on drug use, antibiotic resistance, and the overall health of populations.

When the Canadian government wanted to assess the impact of legalizing marijuana on its citizens’ drug use, it turned to a rich, though often unappreciated, source of data — sewage.

The sewage that ends up in treatment plants such as this one may hold important clues about the health of populations. But such plants may also be hotspots for the spread of antibiotic-resistance genes. Image credit: Shutterstock/Daniel Jedzura.

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