What sewage water can tell us about the spread of COVID-19


Testing for the corona virus is still limited and way too slow to keep ahead of the pandemic. So now dozens of cities and countries are turning to the Sioux worse to try to find out if cove nineteen is spreading in their community, a Massachusetts based startup called. Analytics, tests, wastewater, and raw sewage for the presence of the novel coronavirus. It started a free pilot project earlier this summer with hundreds of wastewater treatment facilities, and now some cities are starting to pay bio bought for regular monitoring. It's branch of research called Wastewater Epidemiology Dan Ackerman has been reporting on this for member station W. G., B. H.. He told me the scientists new, but since cities are desperate to get a handle on the virus, it's finding new converts. You know a couple early studies. That are not yet peer reviewed by independent experts. So take all this with a grain of salt, but there are a couple of early studies that show this wastewater data can actually be a leading indicator of reported cases. So if a city is closely monitoring what's going on in their sewage, if they see a spike in cove it in that sewage that could give them a few days to prepare for like maybe surge capacity in the hospitals or maybe institute a lockdown to stop it from spreading. Can you give us some examples of cities that have used this technology so far in Cambridge, Massachusetts? Not far from where bio is headquartered. Their public schools district. Actually recently announced that their planned for the fall is to use bio bots sewage data in kind of monitoring whether or to continue with the in person portion of their classes. So they have named three indicators that they're GONNA follow in. One of those is how much covert is in the sewage, and if that gets above a certain threshold that might help trigger them to close down in person schooling and move to remote only. How accurate can it be in terms of estimating you know from rates in a certain amount of sewage? How do they correlate that to a number of people who might be infected the rate that an infected person excretes covert in their stool is really variable. Researchers are still a long way from getting exact numbers of infected people based on the sewage data. So they're sampling raw sewage and looking for genetic material of the corona virus and to be clear this is quite different from clinical. Testing, that would say whether an individual has covid by about looking at a CD sewage in aggregate. So like everyone's waste mixed together and that's a way to quickly cast a really wide net and find out how much how much the virus is spreading. You can get a sense of the trends of whether an outbreak is getting worse or getting better, but you still can't nailed down in exact caseload. So that is one reason that we really need to continue stepping up clinical testing efforts.

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