Aussie researchers say a promising new sewage test will act as an early warning system for coronavirus outbreaks.
Aussie researchers are working on a new sewage test that could soon help identify coronavirus hotspots.
Researchers from The University of Queensland and the CSIRO are developing the test, which finds genetic traces of the illness in raw sewage.
It’s hoped it will not only identify specific areas where COVID-19 is present but also the approximate number of infected people.
The scientists successfully detected SARS-CoV2 – the virus that leads to the disease COVID-19 – in untreated sewage from two plants in southeast Queensland.
The RNA fragments they found would have been shed by infected people in the region.
“This is a major development that enables surveillance of the spread of the virus through Australian communities,” says UQ health sciences Professor Kevin Thomas.
Australian work on the test progresses other work done by teams in the US and The Netherlands.
CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall says the testing should identify infection hotspots without having to test every individual in a specific location.
“This will give the public a better sense of how well we are containing this pandemic,” Dr Marshall said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says the surveillance pilot program was extremely encouraging.
“A national program based on this work could add to the broader suite of measures our government can use in the identification and containment of COVID-19,” he said.
The Aussie scientists who proved the concept of the sewage test last week were building on other work by researchers in the US, and The Netherlands.