Waste water tests could monitor 2 billion people for the coronavirus


A new approach to monitoring the novel coronavirus (as well as other dangerous pathogens and chemical agents) is being developed and refined. Known as wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE), the method mines sewage samples for vital clues about human health. It can potentially identify levels of coronavirus infection at both a local and global scale.

Ultimately, WBE holds the promise of near real-time monitoring of disease outbreaks, resistant microbes, levels of drug use or health indicators of diabetes, obesity and other maladies.

In a new study, ASU researchers Rolf Halden and Olga Hart analyze what can and cannot be measured when tracking SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater, and they highlight the economic advantages of the new approach over conventional disease testing and epidemiological surveillance.

Wastewater-based epidemiology holds the potential to break the coronavirus testing logjam in many developed nations like the U.S., but could also be an invaluable tool for gathering health data in impoverished regions likely to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

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