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Can We Use Wastewater to Track the Coronavirus in Ontario? May 13, 2020

Can wastewater treatment lend insights and provide a non-invasive approach to detecting community spread of COVID-19?

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to grow, the world is desperately waiting for a vaccine or an effective treatment. In the meantime, our best tools in preventing the spread of the disease is through innovative and cost-effective ways to identify and manage the emergence or reemergence of COVID-19 within our communities.

We see ongoing challenges with testing for COVID-19 including the availability of reliable test kits, cost logistics and the inherent limitations of current tracking for mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic members of the community. Researchers are exploring a variety of methods for early detection of community-wide emergence or reemergence. 

Gail Krantzberg and Zobia Jawed, faculty members from W. Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology are exploring whether wastewater can be leveraged as a tracking marker for early detection of COVID-19 in Ontario. They’re working to design decision-making processes that are both evidence-based and systematic to allow governments to react to outbreaks at a community scale.

“Preliminary scientific evidence has suggested that the coronavirus is also present in the feces of infected patients detected in the wastewater systems. Wastewater testing may function as an early detection and ongoing monitoring system, especially in communities underserved by healthcare workers or patients with asymptomatic or mild symptoms,” says Zobia Jawed.

Krantzberg and Jawed are looking for opportunities to collaboration with government agencies throughout the province of Ontario to advance this research. They envision this research helping decision-makers to implement dynamic municipal/regional intervention strategies as well as enacting action plans and prioritizing resources accordingly. This approach will provide one more tool in the arsenal to fight COVID-19 pandemic. 

Are you with a municipality interested in this project? Contact Zobia Jawed or Gail Krantzberg.

Related news:

CHCH Morning Live - Wastewater Study
Hamilton Spectator - Flushing out COVID-19: Will sewage testing help track pandemic outbreaks in Hamilton?