WATER TREATMENT 101: VIRUSES

Originally published on February 12, 2015.  Viruses take the cake as tiniest of the waterborne disease-causing microorganisms—smaller than both protozoa and bacteria. These nasty little bugs are also the least understood by scientists, and cause the greatest range of symptoms across infected individuals. The good new is, in North American backcountries, viruses are typically considered much less of a concern than the other pathogenic threats. Why do viruses poses less of a threat in North American wildernesses? Viruses are very species-specific. In other words, they don’t infect just any host they come in contact with. If you catch a virus, its source was most likely another human being. Therefore, human-specific viruses tend to be less present in settings where there’s little human traffic. In addition, in developed regions—like much of North America and…

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Toilet Challenge: MSR’s Role in the Toilet of the Future

Imagine having no safe and sanitary place to, well… go. For many of us, it’s easy to take the toilet for granted. But today, 2.5 billion people worldwide still practice open defecation or lack access to sanitary facilities. And when human waste enters the same water supplies used for drinking and bathing, deadly diseases spread rapidly. In 2011, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation decided to tackle this unglamorous issue head-on by working with partners to improve the management of human waste around the world. They addressed the issue from three different aspects: 1.) revolutionizing the toilet, 2.) the sanitary emptying of pit latrines and septic tanks, and 3.) proper treatment of that removed waste. MSR’s R&D team has been involved in all three efforts. Let’s take a closer look at how:  Reinventing the Toilet To curb…

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MSR Chlorine Makers Aid Response of Recent Ebola Outbreak in Congo

Thanks to weeks of intensive response efforts by a coalition of organizations, including MSR Global Health partner and innovation-leader PATH, a recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) appears to be contained. The first cases were reported in mid-May. Acting with urgency, PATH along with local, national and international agencies coordinated a rapid response, getting supplies, equipment and on-the-ground first responders into a remote area near the Central African Republic border. As they worked to control the spread of the disease, the responders, health care workers and community members needed a way to disinfect water, equipment, bedding and burial supplies. Meanwhile, chlorine shortages were hindering these operations. To address this critical chlorine shortage, PATH reached out to MSR for several of our Community Chlorine Makers, which can produce…

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Celebrate World Water Day

Safe drinking water is a vital human need, but one that millions of people around the world still lack access to. On this World Water Day, MSR celebrates those who are working tirelessly to help tackle this global crisis. From our NGO and university partners, to local village leaders, to our in-house team, and those of you who contributed to our Community Chlorine Maker Campaign—thank you for your generosity, efforts and never-ending passion to improve lives. Together, we’re creating the important technologies and doing the hard work that leads to true and lasting change. Learn more about what MSR partners are doing to contribute in stories below. Our Research & Development Partners MSR, Stanford & PATH Test Chlorine Dosing Prototype in Kenya The support of MSR’s research and development partners…

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The People Behind MSR Global Health

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These are the minds behind MSR’s most innovative and meaningful solutions The People Behind MSR Global Health MSR’s Global Health team is dedicated to using MSR’s expertise in engineering and manufacturing to develop innovations specifically for people in low-resource communities around the world. This small but passionate team comprises in-house engineers, scientists, directors, product developers and manufacturing leads. Though their disciplines vary, they share the desire to create solutions that can make a meaningful and lasting difference. Their technologies get a lot of press, but we wanted to shine a spotlight on a few of these world-class individuals who are making positive impacts on thousands of lives around the globe. Ian Norris: Director of Technology Ian Norris considers himself a big-picture guy. “That’s what I do best—create an idea and…

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Designing MSR’s Community Chlorine Maker

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Since it debuted in 2015, MSR’s Community Chlorine Maker has provided many communities in the developing world with a simple water treatment tool that makes chlorine using just salt, water and electricity. While the device is revolutionary for advancing global health, the science and technology behind it is far from new. In fact, the technology dates back more than a decade to a product developed for the U.S. military. Today, many still remember that device: The MIOX Pen was a hand-held purifier that generated chlorine using only water, salt and electricity from two small batteries. 1998: MSR meets MIOX® By 1998, the military had recognized that purifying water in the field was a key tactical advantage for service members. Seeking a way to generate chlorine on the spot, the military turned to two…

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This is the Most Important Piece of Gear We’ve Ever Made

By the MSR Global Health Team At MSR we believe in the power of technology to transform lives. We’ve witnessed how a stove can help change mountaineering history or how a tent can help enable a record-setting expedition. But this may be the most important piece of gear we’ve ever made. And we’re asking you to help us get it into the hands of the people who need it most. The problem: Help us get safe water to 500,000 people in need. Contribute NOW! Water is the most basic human need. But 1.8 billion people still get their daily drinking water from a fecally contaminated source. This puts them at risk for debilitating and deadly diseases, which prevent work, education and economic growth for these communities. It’s estimated that every…

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Tiny Tablets Make a Giant Impact on Global Water Treatment

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For more than 100 years, the chlorination of drinking water has been critical to reducing waterborne diseases around the world. As a water treatment method, chlorine is safe, effective and low-cost, making it practical for everything from large-scale municipal systems to family water treatment in rural villages of the developing world. It’s no surprise, then, that harnessing the benefits of chlorine in a tablet form would offer significant advantages—delivering chlorine’s benefits to many across the globe. For 20 years, Aquatabs® purification tablets have been doing just that. These tiny chlorine-based tablets have offered an innovative water treatment solution to backpackers, NGOs, disaster relief agencies and defense forces on a large scale. In fact, this year, 5.5 billion liters of water worldwide have been made drinkable thanks to the tablets. Why…

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MSR’s Water Lab Explores Technologies for Developing Nations

Just two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, water itself is elemental. But the science behind clean water and water treatment technologies is complex. That’s why MSR is home to a dedicated water research lab. The five scientists who staff the lab develop and test water treatment solutions not just for MSR’s outdoor customers, but also for communities in the developing world that are faced with clean-water challenges. Take a look inside the lab to learn about the fascinating work this team does to keep MSR Global Health at the forefront of water treatment innovation. Next, read MSR’s Complete Guide to Water Treatment Basics

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The Well-Studied Water Treatment Benefits of Chlorine

The chlorination of public drinking water has been hailed as one of the most significant advancements in public health of the last century. Since its adoption in the U.S. in 1908, the initiative has helped to virtually eradicate most waterborne diseases in the industrialized world—an achievement that’s been central to the economic and social development of these nations. Today, the majority of municipal water supplies in the developed world are disinfected using chlorine-based solutions, either alone or in combination with others. Because of this, chlorine is thoroughly researched and scientifically well understood. Long has it proven to be a safe, effective, economical and widely applicable water treatment method. It’s because of chlorine’s advantages and numerous benefits that MSR Global Health’s water treatment technologies have focused on its applications. How Chlorine…

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Water Treatment 101: Viruses

Viruses take the cake as tiniest of the waterborne disease-causing microorganisms—smaller than both protozoa and bacteria. These nasty little bugs are also the least understood by scientists, and cause the greatest range of symptoms across infected individuals. The good new is, in North American backcountries, viruses are typically considered much less of a concern than the other pathogenic threats.

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Water Treatment 101: Bacteria

Bacteria are everywhere—on you, in you, in the soil, and yes, even in the wilderness’ cool, refreshing water sources. In fact harmless species of these single-cell organisms exist naturally in the backcountry’s rivers and pools. But humans and animals can carry harmful bacteria as well, and spread these pathogens to the water, making it risky if you happen to drink from the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of these bacteria are the same notorious headline grabbers associated with foodborne outbreaks or epidemics after natural disasters. We’ll discuss those and others, but first a few general facts.

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Water Treatment 101: Cryptosporidium

Research backcountry water treatment and you’re sure to be warned about cryptosporidium or “crypto.” And for good reason. This microscopic protozoan parasite is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in humans in the United States. Like the parasite giardia, crypto is found in water sources worldwide, and affects individuals differently. Fortunately, the disease it causes is rarely life-threatening in healthy adults. In fact, some 80% of the U.S. population has had cryptosporidiosis at some time, according to the FDA. Still, its symptoms are nasty enough that you’ll want to take strides to avoid it on your next backpacking trip.

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Water Treatment 101: Understanding Giardia

If you find the published information about Giardia confusing and inconsistent, it’s because the information is a reflection of the parasite itself. Giardia is a multifaceted protozoan that affects individuals differently. It can be prevalent in one small corner of a lake, and practically absent in other parts of the same body of water. In the context of backcountry water, cases of Giardia are rarely diagnosed or reported and there haven’t been enough scientific studies to understand the risks to backcountry travelers. To further complicate the matter, the symptoms of Giardia are difficult to distinguish from those of cryptosporidium, another parasite.

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Water 101: Safe Water Treatment Solutions for International Travelers

Whether you’re planning a backcountry trip or an urban adventure abroad—say, an Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal, or a cultural tour of its capital, Kathmandu—you’ll want to take extra precautions with your drinking water. In many developing countries, both municipal drinking water and backcountry water are prone to viruses in addition to bacteria and protozoa. Bringing a water purification system with you is a smart way to help protect you from viral infections that can jeopardize your health, not to mention ruin your vacation.

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The Gear Institute Tours MSR’s Water Research Lab

Earlier this year, we gave you a behind-the-scenes look into the world of MSR’s on-site water research lab in this article. The microbiology lab was established in 1997 and has been dedicated to quality control, as well as researching, developing and testing water treatment solutions for outdoor users, the U.S. military and citizens in developing nations ever since. Recently, The Gear Institute stopped by to take a tour of the facility and find out why we go through such thorough testing on our water treatment devices. You can read all that The Gear Institute learned here.

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