Coronavirus pathogens in SEWAGE and wastewater could help track the spread of the disease and act as an early warning system for future outbreaks
Dutch researchers found evidence of COVID-19 genetic material in wastewaterThey discovered it in sewage near Amsterdam before the city had any casesSewage water tracking could provide a good early warning system for COVID-19
Sewage and wastewater could be the key to tracking the spread of coronavirus and help warn of future outbreaks, a study finds.
Researchers from the KWR Water Research Institute in the Netherlands studied sewage samples from seven cities to look for evidence of COVID-19 in sewage.
They found that even when there were few people with reported cases of the deadly coronavirus in the country, traces of it were still present in the sewers.
In a non-peer reviewed paper, the researchers say it is unlikely that coronavirus is spread through sewers, but they could provide an early warning or tracking system.
Researchers from the KWR Water Research Institute in the Netherlands studied sewage samples from seven cities to look for evidence of COVID-19 in sewage
The team of researchers found genetic material from COVID-19 in a wastewater treatment plant near Amsterdam before any cases had been reported in the city.
Gertjan Medema and colleagues say it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route for spreading the disease to humans, but is a good early indicator of where the disease is being spread as it is released in the stools of patients.
‘It is important to collect information about the occurrence and fate of this new virus in sewage to understand if there is no risk to sewage workers,’ the team wrote.
They said it is also useful to determine if sewage surveillance could be used to monitor the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in our communities.
Medema, the institute’s principal microbiologist, said: ‘That could complement current clinical surveillance, which is limited to the COVID-19 patients with the most severe symptoms.’
The discovery of the genetic material in the Amersfoort treatment plant on March 5 was the first detection of COVID-19 in sewage.
Sewage surveillance is already used to detect other viruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria – as well as by police to track the spread of illegal drugs.
The Dutch scientists say the discovery of the virus in sewage means it could be used to provide an early warning system for the possible re-emergence of COVID-19 in a city that has re-opened after lockdown.
‘The detection of the virus in sewage, even when the Covid-19 prevalence is low, indicates that sewage surveillance could be a sensitive tool to monitor the circulation of the virus in the population,’ they wrote.
It comes as recent research found that the virus can be isolated from urine and faeces and can survive for several days outside of a living organism.
This adds to the confidence a study of wastewater could prove useful in tracking the deadly virus across cities and even countries.
In a different study, a team of researchers from the UK are developing a test to find the virus in wastewater, potentially making tracking it easier.
“We have already developed a paper device for testing genetic material in wastewater for proof-of-concept,’ says biomedical engineer Zhugen Yang, from Cranfield University in the UK.
Yang added: ‘This provides clear potential to test for infection with adaption.’
Gertjan Medema and colleagues say it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route for spreading the disease to humans, but is a good early indicator of where the disease is being spread as it is released in the stool of patients
“This device is cheap, costing less than £1 [US$1.24], and will be easy to use for non-experts after further improvement,’ he wrote.
‘We foresee that the device will be able to offer a complete and immediate picture of population health once this sensor can be deployed.’
Both groups are working in a growing field called wastewater-based epidemiology that uses large data sets in real time to accurately track a range of subjects.
Yang’s device would be folded and unfolded in steps in order to filter pathogens from wastewater and detect if COVID-19 is present.
“If COVID-19 can be monitored in a community at an early stage through WBE, effective intervention can be taken as early as possible to restrict the movements of that local population,’ Yang said.
This would work to ‘minimise the pathogen spread and threat to public health.’
HOW DOES CORONAVIRUS SPREAD?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection.
Doctors say COVID-19 it may spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky.
The coronavirus can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
The Center for Disease Control says it spreads between people who are within six feet of one another.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city but cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
The latest research suggests that the virus can be isolated from urine and faeces and can survive for several days outside of a living organism.
There are a number of myths circulating about how the virus is spread. It can’t be passed by mosquito’s and it’s unlikely you’ll catch it from your pet.
However, it is a new virus and researchers are learning more about how it spreads all the time.