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A New Responsive COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Approach

A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology identifies a new method that not only detects the virus in wastewater samples but also tracks if the infection rated are trending up or down. Wastewater testing could be used for more responsive tracking and supplementing information public health officials rely on when evaluating efforts to contain the virus. The test works by identifying and measuring genetic material in the form of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

Wastewater data compliments the data from clinical testing and may provide additional insight into COVID-19 infections within communities. Researchers sought to advance the effectiveness and accuracy of wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 by comparing the ability to detect the virus in two forms of wastewater -a mostly liquid influent or a settled solid. The researchers tested 100 settled solid samples from the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility tallying daily concentration numbers and compared them with the COVID-19 confirmed cases.

Their results racked the trend of the county’s cases, decreasing in both May and June and peaking in July. This research presents a way to identify new outbreaks, confirm the decrease of cases and find hotspots. The research team is further launching a pilot to sample up to eight wastewater treatment plants with a 24-hour turnaround time.

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