The ultimate goal is for almost all sewage plants to install these coronavirus early warning systems so as to track the spread of Covid-19.
“It would be the first test line,” said microbiologist Hauke Harms, one of the leaders of the study. “You would start with our measurement and then you would know where to go to look for the reasons. Normally it is a hospital, or I don’t know, a factory where you have an outbreak. And then one would have to test the people.”
The concept seems fairly simple: Sewage contains remnants of the virus from human feces. If those concentrations suddenly jump, sewage plants would detect that and alert authorities to take action and begin targeted testing of the area in question.
The sewage plants in the area of the eastern German city of Leipzig — which can serve populations of between 100,00 and 600,000 people — are among those taking part in the study.
“If it would be possible to have an idea of the concentration of coronavirus in the wastewater, we can calculate the number of infected people in Leipzig and this would be very interesting in the coronavirus strategies,” said Dr. Ulrich Meyer, the technical director of Leipzig’s waterworks.
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