Newsdeck

COVID-19

Swiss researchers see sewage as early warning sign for COVID flares

Swiss researchers see sewage as early warning sign for COVID flares
epa08264587 A view of a map of the world displayed on a screen showing the evolution of the novel coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak, at the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) in Brussels, Belgium, 02 March 2020. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

ZURICH, April 30 (Reuters) - Researchers in Switzerland have been able to detect the new corovarirus at even low concentrations in wastewater, offering a potential early warning system for flareups in infections as countries emerge from emergency lockdowns.

Should the system work, sewage samples could let public health officials see a resurgence of COVID-19 infections earlier than with diagnostic tests, perhaps by around a week, the scientists said https://www.eawag.ch/en/news-agenda/news-portal/news-detail/tracking-the-course-of-the-pandemic-in-wastewater on Thursday.

COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.19 million people and killed 226,880, according to a Reuters tally.

“Wastewater doesn’t lie, and it reflects what is excreted by the public within a few hours,” team leader Christoph Ort from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology said in a statement.

Scientists from the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and Lausanne (EPFL) said the surveillance method still needed improvements before it would be able to draw robust conclusions about viral concentrations in the original samples.

Initial results from the teams at the two Swiss universities have been encouraging, though. They analysed wastewater samples from Lausanne, Zurich and Lugano including -– for the latter two Swiss cities – a sample from the end of February, when the first cases of infection were recorded in Switzerland.

The researchers managed to detect the novel coronavirus in all the samples. Concentrations in more recent samples were so high that analysis appeared relatively easy. But that was not apparent with the samples from February.

“We didn’t expect that we’d already be able to measure a signal in wastewater from Lugano, with only one, and from Zurich, with only six known cases,” said researcher Tamar Kohn from EPFL.

Australian researchers said this month they expect to roll out wide testing of raw sewage for the presence of coronavirus within weeks to help pinpoint communities at risk, after a successful regional pilot.

(Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by Larry King)

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.