Dutch Scientists Find Coronavirus in City's Wastewater

April 9, 2020

Dutch scientists were able to find the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before Covid-19 cases were reported

Dutch scientists were able to find the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases were reported.

This could be a novel early warning system for the pneumonia-causing disease, reported Bloomberg.

SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. 

The pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities will increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, said Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein.

The team detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on Mar. 5, before any cases had been reported in the city. Amersfoot is located about 32 miles southeast of Amsterdam and the Netherlands confirmed its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 27. 

“It is important to collect information about the occurrence and fate of this new virus in sewage to understand if there is no risk to sewage workers, but also to determine if sewage surveillance could be used to monitor the circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in our communities,” said Medema, the institute’s principal microbiologist. “That could complement current clinical surveillance, which is limited to the COVID-19 patients with the most severe symptoms.”

This is the first report of detection of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage, reported Bloomberg.

Sewage surveillance could also serve as early warning of the emergence and re-emergence of COVID-19 in cities, added the Dutch scientists.

“The detection of the virus in sewage, even when the COVID-19 prevalence is low, indicates that sewage surveillance could be a sensitive tool to monitor the circulation of the virus in the population,” they said.

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Cristina Tuser