Could sewers be the key to tracking coronavirus?

Engineers believe wastewater could bey key to tracking the spread of coronavirus.

An international team of researchers that includes engineers from the University of Sheffield are developing new techniques that could be used for a number of potential uses including to identify a second wave of the pandemic.

They say wastewater monitoring offers a quick way to identify the level of infection in a community without the need for testing individuals. The techniques could then help create a more accurate map of how the virus is spreading.

Brought together by the Water Research Foundation, the group is currently developing best-practices and standardised procedures for collecting and storing water samples as well as using molecular genetics tools to identify levels of COVID-19 in wastewater samples.

They are also developing strategies to communicate the implications of environmental surveillance results with the public health community, elected officials, wastewater workers, and the public.

Professor Vanessa Speight, who is also a member of the Sheffield Water Centre at the University said: ‘There is great potential for wastewater to provide valuable information about the occurrence of COVID-19 across communities. But given that this is a very new field of investigation, we have identified a number of areas where future research efforts should be concentrated to maximise the value of this data.’

Photo Credit – the University of Sheffield


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