Coronavirus is being flushed away.
Teams of researchers have been studying samples of sewage to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the LA Times reports.
According to the report, initial studies show that sewage monitoring could tell us how much COVID-19 might actually be spreading in a community and when the virus has finally gone away.
“With wastewater, you can very quickly get a snapshot of an entire population,” said Mariana Matus, who co-founded Biobot Analytics, a wastewater epidemiology start-up. “The closest approach to replicating the data from wastewater would be to literally test every single person in a community and then take the average of that. It is very powerful.”
As some cities stay-at-home orders begin to expire and states motion to reopen, some say monitoring sewage could also provide early warnings if the virus makes a comeback.
During a one-week period in March, Matus and her team carefully identified and quantified virus particles in sewage samples from a wastewater treatment plant in Massachusetts, LA Times reports.
In a study released this month and awaiting peer review, the wastewater analysis showed a much higher number of infected people in the region than what individual clinical confirmations had shown, LA Times reports.
According to the study, the sewage samples revealed that even by conservative estimates, thousands of more people could have actually been infected compared to the hundreds of cases reported in the area.
According to the LA Times, some parts of the study still need perfecting. But so far, the study shows that by regularly monitoring wastewater, the country could be more proactive in preventing future outbreaks of COVID-19.