Czech researchers testing wastewater for new coronavirus
Czech researchers have started looking for traces of the coronavirus in wastewater. A laboratory in Brno is currently testing samples from two dozen wastewater plants around the Czech Republic. The monitoring could be used to reveal the scale of a coronavirus outbreak and also as an early warning of fresh outbreaks.
Here in the Czech Republic, the monitoring was launched by the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Water Research Institute in Brno in the second half of April. Věra Očenášková, who is a member of the research team, outlines its potential benefits.
“The monitoring can be useful for detecting the presence of the virus in the population. It has been shown that around 50 percent of the population who have Covid-19 have traces of SARS-Cov-2 in their excrements, which then enter the wastewater system, where it can be detected.
Researchers are taking samples at twenty wastewater plants around the Czech Republic, which serve more than 700,000 people, to get as wide a picture as possible about the scale of the coronavirus outbreak. Věra Očenášková outlines more details of the monitoring:
“We take samples of untreated waste water which have been collected at the plant over the past 24 hours and transport them to our laboratory for analysis.
“We are cooperating with the Veterinary Research Institute in Brno, who are using the RT-PCR method for detecting the presence of viruses in wastewater. They isolate and conserve the virus and then determine its presence in the samples.”
Věra Očenášková stresses that the presence of the virus in wastewater presents no danger of infection to the general population.
“There is no way for ordinary people to get in contact with wastewater. Moreover, we only identify the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA, which confirms the presence of the virus, but doesn’t reveal whether it is alive or not, so there is really no need to worry.
“According to the World Health Organisation, the health risks from wastewater are minimal and there is no reason to worry about getting infected from this source.”