Australian researchers develop system to detect Covid-19 gene in sewage

The University of Queensland (UQ) and Australia’s national science agency CSIRO researchers have developed an early warning surveillance system designed to detect the presence of SARS-CoV2, a virus which causes Covid-19, in Australian untreated wastewater (sewage).

The researchers claim that their surveillance system has successfully demonstrated the presence of the coronavirus gene in raw sewage.

Australia 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 programme based on this work could add to the broader suite of measures our Government can use in the identification and containment of Covid-19.”

The researchers concluded a proof of concept study using wastewater samples from two wastewater treatment plants in South East Queensland.

During the study, RNA fragments of SARS-CoV2 have been identified in untreated sewage that could have been shed in the wastewater stream by Covid-19 infected people.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said: “The hope is eventually we will be able to not just detect the geographic regions where COVID-19 is present, but also 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.” Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

UQ Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences Director professor Kevin Thomas said that systematic sampling and analysis of wastewater was used for the research for SARS-CoV-2 using a standardised approach based on refined analytical methods.

“The wastewater samples were analysed for specific nucleic acid fragments of the virus using RT-PCR analysis, which is used to identify a gene fragment from SARS-CoV2.”