UK launches sewage analysis project


The UK government, in collaboration with universities, water companies, and public research bodies, is preparing to launch a national research programme to develop an early warning system for future waves of COVID-19 by detecting the coronavirus in sewage. About half of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 excrete it in their faeces, and enough virus survive to be detectable in untreated water using ultrasensitive PCR analysis. Teams in the UK, several other European countries, Australia, Israel, and the US have shown that systematic waste water sampling can reveal the levels of viral infection in local communities. The Netherlands has the most sophisticated programme, where the national institute for public health, RIVM, monitors sewage in 29 cities; the programme began originally to look for microbial fingerprints that might indicate antibiotic resistance, and was adapted and expanded when the coronavirus emerged from China.
Writer: Clive Cookson
Publication: Financial Times

Related learning resources