UNITED STATES: America’s failure to contain the rise of fatal COVID-19 variants has left the country at risk of a new wave of sickness and death. The UK COVID-19 variant is said to be 50 percent more transmissible. The COVID-19 cases due to the UK variant are believed to be doubling in the U.S. every 10 days.
Public health experts have now come up with a new technique to track the spread. Recent findings showed that people who have been infected by the COVID-19 virus shed fragments of the virus in feces and urine. With this idea, a national program to monitor wastewater for virus mutations would help close the gap.
Sewage monitoring to combat COVID-19
Ted Smith, an environmental medicine researcher at the University of Louisville said that the ‘poop program‘ would be the most cost-effective, objective, and equitable approach and would be far more convenient than shipping around swabs from labs.
The program would help provide experts an almost real-time map of where the new variants are spreading, allow authorities to surge resources to trouble spots, and aid experts in evaluating the effectiveness of the virus at the community level. It will also help to detect new strains before they start spreading.
By design, such a system includes people who haven’t been tested before or are asymptomatic.
Some communities around the country are already monitoring sewage for COVID-19. In a program at the University of Arizona, wastewater coming out of individual dorms was tested. The final results showed that three students were COVID-19 positive.
The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts has been using a wastewater testing system run by the private company BioBot.
“As soon as people are infected, they start shedding the virus, before they start showing symptoms. Some people may take five days to develop symptoms. But we can already see it in the sewage because it’s in their stool,” said Nour Sharara, a public health expert at BioBot.