SARS-CoV-2-Viruses in Wastewater

August 25th, 2020 | by

Since the beginning of the pandemic, research groups have been working on methods to detect SARS-CoV-2 viruses in wastewater to be used to monitor the degree of COVID-19 transmission among the population. The idea is simple: since infected people shed SARS-CoV-2 viruses in their faeces, wastewater samples could give an indication of the infection numbers among all the residents connected to a wastewater treatment plant. Given sufficient sensitivity, these analyses could function as an early-warning system for authorities, allowing early detection of local case increases within the catchment area of a treatment plant.

A consortium of Frankfurt virologists, ecotoxicologists, and evolutionary researchers, and water researchers from Aachen have now shown for the first time in Germany that SARS-CoV-2 genetic material can be detected in treatment plants using modern molecular methods. Analyses revealed 3 to 20 gene equivalents per milliliter of wastewater in all nine wastewater treatment plants tested during the first pandemic wave in April 2020. This concentration level was also measured in studies in the Netherlands and the USA.

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