Covid-19: Sewerage can hold key to stopping new coronavirus outbreaks

The ultimate goal is that almost all sewage facilities install these coronavirus early warning systems to monitor the spread of Covid-19.

“It would be the first test line,” said microbiologist Hauke ​​Harms, one of the leaders of the research. “You will start with our measurement and then you will know where to go to look for the causes. Normally this is a hospital, or I don’t know, a factory where you have an epidemic. People.”

The concept seems quite simple: Sewerage contains virus residues from human feces. If these concentrations jump suddenly, sewage facilities will detect this and alert the authorities to take action and begin targeted testing of the area in question.

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Sewage facilities in the East German city of Leipzig – which can serve a population of between 100.00 and 600,000 people – are among the research participants.

“If it was possible to get an idea of ​​the coronavirus concentration in wastewater, we could calculate the number of infected people in Leipzig and this would be very interesting in coronavirus strategies,” said the coach Dr.. Water works of Leipzig.

But in reality, it’s not that simple. In Leipzig’s main sewage facility, samples are removed every two minutes while wastewater flows 24 hours a day.

Scientists at Helmholtz recognize that finding a small amount of genetic material (or RNA) from the virus in a giant waste river is a monumental task.

“We have high, high amounts of wastewater, and it is difficult to find traces of the virus in wastewater,” said Rene Kallies, a virologist working on the project. Said. “So we have liters and we have to scale to microliters to get enough for RNA extraction, and that’s the problem.”

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Nevertheless, scientists say they can detect a Covid trail increase in one day and pass this information on to local authorities.

Scientists, another challenge, is the low number of new infections available in Germany, which makes it even more difficult to find the virus and means that a single infected person may skew test results.

“You may have heard of these super emitters, and there are also super shooters. Harms is a lot more people secreting viruses than others, and of course this gives you a false idea of ​​the number of people infected.” Said.

Germany was considered an example of a country that successfully defended the worst destructions of the virus. On Friday, more than 182,000 Covid-19 cases reported, with approximately 8,400 deaths, which were significantly lower than in other European countries.

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Monitoring the virus in feces is not new, and it is not just German researchers who try to use sewage as an alarm system. In February, scientists at the Netherlands KWR Water Research Institute found the virus at six sewage facilities in the country, including one serving the main international airport in Schipol. KWR said it has developed a method to monitor the presence of the virus in the sewer and the tested wastewater has clear benefits.

“Testing in sewers can give an early indication of contamination across the entire population, as testing of individuals requires individual testing,” the KWR website says. Said.

Tuesday, announced KWR data will be integrated into the Dutch government’s Covid-19 monitoring control panel.

German researchers believe that sewage testing will be a factor in a network of measures to detect outbreaks.

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However, to help include a possible second wave of coronavirus, they still admit that they still have problems to be solved, although they say they are sure that the system will be in place and work in the last half of 2020.

“I think we can suggest something before the next wave,” he said, referring to a work detection system that can be used by states and sewage systems. “So if the next wave comes in autumn or early winter, then we have to buy something.”

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