Wastewater may yield clues to COVID-19 infection rates

Across the globe, researchers are looking for ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that may spread the disease more easily.

They’ve found that wastewater, or sewage, can help public officials better understand the extent of infections in communities and complement existing surveillance where clinical testing is underutilized or unavailable.

Working with the U of M Genomics Center

Here in the metro area, scientists in the Met Council’s Environmental Services division extract viral genetic material from wastewater samples and send it to research partners at the University of Minnesota Genomics Center.

There, scientists measure concentrations of the SARS-CoV-2 viral material in the wastewater to assess COVID-19 prevalence among the population who live in the sewershed, or the part of the region that has sewer service.

Monitoring wastewater gives scientists another resource to help inform public health decision making and lays the ground work for wastewater surveillance of other infectious diseases.

For more information on wastewater surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, visit the CDC website.