Wastewater testing, or “wastewater quality indicators” are broad descriptions for the various test methodologies to measure water quality. These tests analyze the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of wastewater.
As countries and individual healthcare organizations work to arrest the spread of Covid-19 and to care for those who are infected, officials in some geographic locations are using wastewater testing as a possible method for identifying levels of Covid-19 in their communities. The testing goal is to detect evidence of the Covid-19 genetic material, ribonucleic acid (RNA), in fecal matter in sewage and wastewater.
The novel virus, SARS-CoV-2, is the virus that causes Covid-19. It is known to invade the GI (gastrointestinal) track in some patients, and so the virus is extracted in their fecal matter.
Looking at the amount of viral matter in waste water from a community could uncover the level of Covid-19 spread in the population. This information can then be a trigger for the required mitigation initiatives and response plans, such as testing individuals, contract tracking, and quarantine. It also allows for information to be gathered on a cross section of the population, allowing for a way to monitor public health solutions for large groups.
Scientists from around the world are setting up pilot programs to test waste water. The Netherlands has successfully performed a Covid-19 test for waste water and additional programs are launching in Singapore, Zurich, Lausanne, Milan, Rome, Australia, and in parts of the US, such as Colorado, Ohio, New York, and Wyoming. Scientists in these regions have been able to identify the novel Coronavirus at low concentrations in waste water, pointing to an early warning systems for communities.
In April, 2020, the scientific journal, Nature, listed that over a dozen groups around the globe were doing research analyzing waste water for Covid-19, and that evidence of the virus was already found in the United States, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
A valuable tool in pre-treated water analysis are Automatic Samplers. These devices automate the collection of sewage samples and prepare them for further analysis to ascertain the existence and amount of virus in the wastewater sample.