Disease protection: Corona virus appears in the waste water

An early warning of coronavirus outbreaks in individual areas could come from sewage treatment plants. At least that is what a Dutch working group from the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein proposes based on their analysis results. As the team led by Gertjan Medema reports in an as yet unchecked pre-release, fragments of genetic material from Sars-CoV-2 appeared in the sewage treatment plants in five cities and at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. In one city, the working group found the virus RNA before known cases occurred. This shows that virus detection in wastewater can serve as an early warning system for future outbreaks, she writes. In addition, the wastewater treatment plant may allow the course of epidemics to be monitored independently of clinical data.

The idea is by no means absurd, because infected people excrete virus material in their faeces. In the USA and in other countries, projects are also underway to monitor the spread of the virus and the disease Covid-19 via the sewage treatment plants – a proven strategy for other pathogens. The team around Medema examined the wastewater from the six sewage treatment plants at three points in time: first around February 6, when there were no cases in the country, then on March 4 and 5, when a few dozen infected people were known and the numbers were strong rose, and again ten days later. As expected, no viral RNA was found in the first measurement, but on March 5, five of the measuring points already recorded hits, including those in Amersfoort, where until then no case of disease was known.

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