Scientists plan to track COVID-19 outbreak through sewage sensors

A scientific team is working to uncover insights into human behavior and public health by analyzing sewage levels. The technique, known as wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) research, has become a valuable tool widely used around the world. Now scientists with cutting-edge technology are hoping to help monitor the outbreak of COVID-19.

Scientists plan to track COVID-19 outbreak through sewage sensors

(From: Cranfield University)

In essence, WBE is a process that allows scientists to take samples from wastewater treatment plants and conduct chemical analysis. Research in this area can help Governments better understand the habits of drug addicts by understanding the use of illicit drugs in specific communities.

However, WBE’s capabilities go far beyond that, so scientists plan to install remote sensors instead of frequently traveling to the lab to conduct sample analysis processes to better understand what’s in the sample.

The new research project is led by Dr. Zhugen Yang, a lecturer in sensor technology at the Institute of Water Sciences at Cranfield University.

Its team brings together state-of-the-art biomedical and chemical technologies to create inexpensive paper sensors.

These sensors can monitor antibiotic resistance genes to track the emergence of superbugs. or bacteria that indicate levels of obesity in the community, as well as pathogens that can cause disease at an early stage.

But now, like many scientists around the world, Dr. Yang’s team is turning its attention to tracking the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Community real-time wastewater testing based on paper-based analytics devices can be used to determine the presence of COVID-19 carriers in the area for rapid screening, isolation and prevention in the event of a symptomatic infection in the community, or when people are not sure if they are infected,” it said.

In other words: if WBE can be deployed at an early stage, it is possible to effectively monitor the spread of COVID-19, enabling communities to intervene in a timely manner to limit the movement of the community population, thereby minimizing the spread of pathogens and threats to public health.

The team is currently planning to deploy the new sensors they have developed to the wastewater treatment system to collect COVID-19 biomarkers from feces and urine.

When folded and expanded, the sensor filters the nucleic acid sits of the pathogen so that it reacts with the pre-installed reagent to indicate if a corresponding infection condition is present.

The results can be clearly visible to the naked eye, such as green circles when positive. Other studies have shown that the virus can be isolated from the feces and urine of an infected person and survive for several days in an appropriate environment.

It’s worth noting that the paper sensor is cheap and costs less than 1 pound (about $1.25). With subsequent improvements, the research team will make it easier for non-professionals to use.

If the deployment of such sensors is available in the future, it is expected to provide complete and real-time population health monitoring.

Details of the study have been published in the recent journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Originally published as Can a Paper-Based Device Trace COVID-19 Sources with-Based Origin Poems?