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Drinking Clearly

Viruses are effectively removed from drinking water during the purification process

13 March 2021

Drinking Clearly

It’s almost impossible to catch pieces of sand floating in a glass of water, but once it has settled into a layer at the bottom you might be able to scoop it up. The same applies to viruses floating in water, each 10,000 times smaller than a grain of sand. A standard water treatment process uses metallic salts to encourage virus particles to congregate into manageable clumps that sink like sand to be removed. Researchers taking an extra cautious approach to the COVID-19 pandemic tested whether this treatment works on similar coronaviruses, to address any fears that virus particles in wastewater might be able to sneak into drinking water. They found that the free-floating virus (left, red) did aggregate into clumps (right), suggesting the purification process is well equipped to handle both coronavirus and other viruses with similar outer structures, such as Ebola, meaning everyone can enjoy their drink.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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