Researchers have tracked COVID-19 traces in sewage

By Juliano Oliveira

Researchers from The UQ (University of Queensland) and CSIRO (Australia’s national science agency) have managed to track COVID-19 traces in raw sewage.

The samples of the virus were collected last week from two wastewater treatment plants in South East Queensland, representing infected patients living in the Brisbane region.

“This is a major development that enables surveillance of the spread of the virus through Australian communities,” Director of UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences, Professor Kevin Thomas said.

Welcoming the announcement, Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said, “The COVID-19 wastewater surveillance pilot is extremely encouraging and has the potential to further strengthen Australia’s response to the global pandemic.”

“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.”

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, said the testing would help Australia manage COVID-19.

 “The hope is eventually we will be able to not just detect the geographic regions where COVID-19 is present, but the approximate number of people infected – without testing every individual in a location.  This will give the public a better sense of how well we are containing this pandemic,” Dr Marshall said.

“These data will be particularly useful for catchments with vulnerable populations where testing using other methods may not be feasible,” Dr Bertsch said.

“An early warning detection system like this would also be incredibly useful for monitoring and response in the recovery phase.”

The team is keen to share the new knowledge and methods to develop a national collaboration.