Strategy and Background

 

 

Strategy and Background  

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, authorities have been monitoring the spread of the pandemic. The primary means of doing this is the well-known swab test – which tests individuals in a community. This is time consuming, relatively expensive for the information obtained, and more importantly, the information obtained may, for various reasons, not necessarily be accurate

But what if we had a more accurate method of testing a community other than individual swabs? And furthermore, what if this method could predict where an outbreak of the virus is about to happen?

Studies have shown that the coronavirus is shed in faeces up to 14 days prior to symptoms showing. It therefore follows that the sampling of sewage / wastewater can give an indication of virus loading. This can serve as an early warning of where an outbreak is to take place. This can be done by testing wastewater emanating from a catchment which can be a facility such as malls, schools, townships, towns, suburbs, or a business building.

Wastewater-based Epidemiology – testing wastewater for monitoring a disease – is not a new field detecting pathogens, but it has come to the fore since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since been used to track hepatitis, polio etc. and to predict future hot and cold spots.

Apart from the obvious invaluable information obtained from this testing, another major advantage is that it is relatively low priced. In addition, once this system is set up, it can be used to test for other illnesses such as polio, hepatitis, measles, cholera, etc. enabling medical supplies and resources to be deployed to appropriate locations. Narcotics can be detected too and would allow authorities to be able to track down drug abusers and dealers the use of narcotics in the community.

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