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Sewage Testing to Detect COVID Outbreak Begins

Sewage Testing To Detect COVID Outbreaks Begins
03 August 2020

Sewage monitoring is being established in the UK as part of research into an advance warning system to detect new outbreaks of coronavirus.

This is based on recent research findings that fragments of genetic material (RNA) from the virus can be detected in wastewater. The testing could be used to detect the presence of the virus in the population, including those who are asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic.

The World Health Organization currently states that there is no evidence that coronavirus has been transmitted via sewerage systems.


Sampling Started at 44 Wastewater Treatment Sites


According to the BBC, The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reported that wastewater sampling has begun at 44 wastewater treatment sites.

The government and Devolved Administration partners are working with academics, UK Research and Innovation and the Natural Environment Research Council and water companies in developing and testing the approach.

The UK work is being coordinated by Defra, the Environment Agency and the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), working closely with water companies and the Universities of Bangor, Edinburgh, Bath and Newcastle.


Yosemite Valley Started Testing in July


In Mid-July, The Guardian reported that the county health department in San Franciso had been collecting untreated wastewater flowing from the Yosemite Valley for testing.

Scientists at Biobot Analytics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, examined the sewage water to determine if there are traces of genetic material from COVID-19 in the human faeces. Based on their findings, they believe that an estimated 170 people in the park the week of 4 July 2020 may have been infected with COVID-19.


No Evidence to Suggest Faecal−Oral Transmission of Coronavirus


Some have questioned the safety of using public toilets in the UK in terms of the possibility of transmitting COVID-19.

Faecal–oral transmission is a common transmission route for many viruses, and according to the World Health Organisation, there is some evidence that COVID-19 infection may lead to intestinal infection and be present in faeces. 

To date (report updated as of 9 July 2020) only one study has cultured the COVID-19 virus from a single stool specimen. There have been no reports of faecal−oral transmission of the coronavirus to date.

Picture: A photograph showing a traditional WC sign

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 03 August 2020


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