New way to detect coronavirus: Sewage basically constitutes fragments of the virus from human feces


Scientists have revealed that any new wave of the global pandemic can be detected by sewage. A trial is being held by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. The pilot experiment is sampling wastewater from plants that normally serve some of the largest urban areas. This helps to detect the coronavirus.

The eventual objective is for almost all sewage plants to install these coronavirus early warning systems so that the lethal global pandemic can be easily tracked. Microbiologist Hauke Harms who is one of the leaders of this study underlines that “It would be the first test line … You would start with our measurement and then you would know where to go to look for the reasons. Normally it is a hospital, or I don’t know, a factory where you have an outbreak. And then one would have to test the people.”

Sewage basically constitutes fragments of the virus from human faeces. If ever there is any rise, it will be detected by sewage plants. Authorities will then be informed to take action and start testing of the zone in question. Dr Ulrich Meyer, the technical director of Leipzig’s waterworks says that, “If it would be possible to have an idea of the concentration of coronavirus in the wastewater, we can calculate the number of infected people in Leipzig and this would be very interesting in the coronavirus strategies”.

However, it is nonetheless, not so straightforward. At Leipzig’s main sewage plant, samples are removed every two minutes as the wastewater streams the whole day.

Scientists at Helmholtz admit that finding a small amount of genetic material from the virus in a giant river of waste is a complex assignment.

Rene Kallies, a virologist working on the project asserts, “We have a high, high volume of wastewaters and it is a challenge to find the traces of the virus in the wastewaters… So we have liters and we have to scale it down to microliters to get a sufficient amount for RNA extraction and that’s the challenge”.