Analyze wastewater to alert the second wave of COVID-19
The canadian Press
OTTAWA — While the provinces are desperately trying to speed up the screening of the COVID-19, to be able to fend off a possible second wave, the most effective “canary in the mine” could well be located just under our feet: in the sewers.
Several other countries have begun to test sewage to detect signs of the novel coronavirus as indicators of an outbreak in their communities. Researchers in Canada are also beginning to focus on our saddles.
Since some people can transmit the SARS-CoV-2 without even knowing it, the public health officials argue that it will be necessary to test a large part of the population in order to rapidly detect any new transmission community of the COVID-19. But several provinces are struggling to meet their target of screening, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, where rates of infection remain high.
However, this SARS-CoV-2 is not only detectable at the bottom of the throat: it is also found in the stools of infected people. And if everyone is not tested, everyone uses the toilet. A group of researchers from the University of Windsor, in particular, attempts to determine if the analysis of wastewater might be an effective means of alerting public health officials of a new outbreak.
Mike McKay, executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Windsor, explains that the researchers were initially excited at the idea that the measure of the amount of viruses in sewage may provide an idea of the number of cases in a community. But the researchers do not know enough on the amount of virus that is excreted in the stool to be able to draw now conclusions to this chapter.
However, the researchers hope to be able to detect if the viral load has increased or decreased, which will report spikes and sudden to the public health authorities. “If this is the case, it could save lives,” said Bernadette Conant, president and CEO of the canadian water Network.
The organization has launched a pilot project in canadian cities, including Montreal, Ottawa, Windsor and Edmonton, to determine the effectiveness of this technique and to develop a methodology. The ultimate goal, as the technique evolves, is to use this method to avoid new outbreaks in some districts – and even some specific buildings, such as homes long-term care.
This would allow public health authorities to adapt to this area of the operations of screening, quarantines, stricter or other containment measures. “This is not a miracle solution – and it is not to replace the testing and tracing of contacts”, has allowed Ms. Conant. “But it could fill a gap.”
The idea has already been tested in the netherlands and in France at the beginning of the epidemic: according to studies that were not peer-reviewed, it was able to detect traces of viruses in the wastewater prior to hatching generalized not be confirmed in these two countries. Several us States, as well as Australia and Israel, have also searched the sewers for traces of the virus.
This is not a totally new concept in Canada. Last year, Statistics Canada said in a report that she had used samples of wastewater in order to detect signs of increased consumption of drugs – including illegal.