Omicron Variant Found in Wastewater Samples Across the U.S.

Dec. 20, 2021

These findings are consistent with the uptick of COVID-19 cases

Scientists are detecting traces of the Omicron variant in wastewater in Houston, Boulder, Colorado, Northern California and other states.

Public health officials in Sacramento County told KCRA 3 that low concentrations of the COVID-19 Omicron variant were found in a sewage sample from November.

Researchers flagged four samples from wastewater plants in Sacramento and Merced for genetic mutations that looked like Omicron, reported NPR. Staff members at the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility retrieve samples daily as part of their regular lab work and send additional test tubes by courier to get tested for the coronavirus at an outside lab that partners with Stanford University and the Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN).

"This is the steepest curve in viral load we've seen since we began screening wastewater in the summer of 2020, and it's continuing to get worse faster than ever before," said Rob Knight, professor and wastewater screening leader at UC San Diego School of Medicine, reported ABC 10 News San Diego. Both Delta and Omicron variants of the virus were detected in the wastewater.

Wastewater samples collected on Nov. 29 to 30 showed Omicron at eight of Houston, Texas’ 39 wastewater treatment plants, reported The Houston Health Department.

In Boulder, Colorado, CDPHE has detected key signatures of the Omicron variant in wastewater, reported the Colorado Department of Public Health.

In Missouri, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and others, identified the presence of the omicron variant in two wastewater samples, one of them in Jackson County, reported KSHB.

Other states that have detected omicron in wastewater samples include: Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, and Vermont.

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Cristina Tuser