COVID-19 paper-based sewage water test kits rolled out to prevent spread to communities

A new paper-based device that can be used to determine early signs of COVID-19 before it infects anyone else within the sewage water of communities based on a study. 

Researchers are working tirelessly on a test to detect the novel coronavirus that has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization in sewage water of communities that are infected with the virus. This is to develop a way of creating an early warning system detection towards possible communities that are still not infected to know that there is a possibility that COVID-19 is now going to risk their area.

A team of scientists from Cranfield Water Science Institutes in the UK may have developed a way to do so. Following the approach may provide an effective way to pick up signatures of the coronavirus in faeces and urine from the disease carriers that have entered the water system.

This study has now been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, which noted that rapid testing kits using paper-based devices could be used directly on-site at wastewater treatment plants across the globe. 

The kits can be applied to trace sources and be able to determine whether or not there are potential COVID-19 positive people who are still in the area not being treated in the hospital.

Zhugen Yang, who is co-author of the study and also from the Cranfield Water Science Institute said, “In the case of asymptomatic infections in the community or when people are not sure whether they are infected or not, real-time community sewage detection through paper analytical devices could determine whether there are COVID-19 carriers in an area to enable rapid screening, quarantine, and prevention.”

The sewage water-based epidemiology approach can help monitor COVID-19 at the early stages in the communities; this enables public health officials and authorities to take the necessary steps to restrict the movement of the local population while deterring the spread of the coronavirus in the area. 

Recent studies have shown that live samples of the novel coronavirus can be isolated and found from faeces and urine of the infected. In which the pathogen can survive up to several days on end even after exiting the human body.

The paper device or the test kit is used by folded and unfolded in steps to filter the genetic material of the coronavirus, which can be used to take samples in the sewage water. 

Following this, the scientists have said that a biochemical reaction with the preloaded reagents will detect if there is indeed a sample of the strain or not.

Yang said, “We have already developed a paper device for testing genetic material in wastewater for proof-of-concept, and this provides clear potential to test for infection with adaption. We foresee that the device will be able to offer a complete and immediate picture of population health once this sensor can be deployed in the near future.”