Accurately detecting changes in the spread of COVID-19 in the community through wastewater monitoring is getting closer to reality. Scientists have created a method that detects the virus in wastewater samples and tracks, whether the infection rate is increasing or decreasing.
Wastewater analysis is one way to track COVID-19, as infected people shed the virus in their stools. It can be used to track the virus more quickly, to identify hot spots, and, for example, to distribute vaccines when they become available.
The test works by identifying and measuring genetic material in the form of RNA from SARS-COV-2.
The researchers sought to improve the efficiency and accuracy of monitoring wastewater. They found that the settled solid samples had higher concentrations and better detection of SARS-CoV-2 than liquid samples.
Scientists tested about 100 settled solid samples from the San Jose Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant from mid-March to mid-July 2020, calculating daily concentrations. Using statistical simulations, they compared them to confirmed COVID-19 cases. The correlation was obvious.
Research is a possible way to identify new outbreaks, find hotspots, confirm reductions in cases, and communicate public health measures. Coronavirus particulate matter analysis can determine if virus circulation in communities is decreasing.
Scientists are now launching a new pilot project to collect samples at eight treatment plants in California, with a sample processing time of 24 hours.