High Coronavirus Levels in Massachusetts Wastewater

April 15, 2020

COVID-19 (coronavirus) was detected in Massachusetts sewage at higher levels than expected


COVID-19 (coronavirus) was detected in Massachusetts sewage at higher levels than expected. 

This suggests that there are many more undiagnosed patients than previously known, according to a new study.

Researchers from Biobot Analytics collected samples from a wastewater facility for an unnamed metropolitan area in late March, according to a report.

Although the public is not at risk of contracting the virus from particles in the wastewater, the wastewater may have the potential to indicate how widespread the virus has become, according to the New York Post. 

“Even if those viral particles are no longer active or capable of infecting humans, they may still carry genetic material that can be detected using an approach called PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which amplifies the genetic signal many orders of magnitude, creating billions of copies of the genome for each starting virus,” said Alm.

The researchers, alongside a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, analyzed the samples. It was found that the number of coronavirus particles equated with 2,300 people being infected with the virus.

At the time of tests, there were only 446 confirmed cases in the region, reported the study.

“Our estimation was definitely higher than the number of confirmed cases in the area,” said Mariana Matus, CEO and co-founder of Biobot.

The findings have been shared with local health officials, who said it was possible for there to be hundreds of undetected cases.

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Cristina Tuser