Tracking Covid-19 Cases with Wastewater DNA Testing

Researchers have been using DNA testing technology to detect traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind Covid-19 in wastewater streams in order to predict and prevent outbreaks locally. 

Wastewater testing can be a useful method to study the behavior of people living in a specific region. For example, a European study conducted back in 2014 looked at the presence of illicit drugs in wastewater, providing insights on when and how often different substances are used. 

As the pandemic hit cities globally, local authorities across the world stepped into action with different strategies to control the spread of the virus. These included contact tracing, targeted lockdowns, and mandatory quarantines, among others. Unlike all of these strategies that chase the spread of the virus, sewage testing allows scientists to predict infection hotspots in advance. This is because infected people can shed the virus in feces a few days before symptoms occur — if they occur at all.

Finding viruses in wastewater

The process of finding SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater far exceeds the proverbial challenge of finding a needle in a haystack.

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