“We’re looking more at the community level here,” said Dr. Tim Shaker, vice dean for research at U’s M’s Medical School. “We’re trying to find out if we’re measuring the virus in wastewater if that gives us any signal of what’s going on in the community.”
The researchers said the goal would be to set up an early warning system to detect elevated levels of COVID-19 on campus.
“We’re creating more tools so we can understand that the virus is spreading in the community and what the impact is and what we can do to stop it,” Shaker said.
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Researchers have not revealed which dormitories are used for campus research.
At Utah State University, researchers collect samples in their dormitories looking for a genetic imprint of the virus as a way to track COVID-19 infection trends when students returned to college for the fall semester.
Utah officials involved in the project said they were following a protocol developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extract a form of ribonucleic acid or RNA.
Elevated levels of the virus were found in sewage in four dormitories, prompting the state of Utah to quarantine these students.
Utah state researchers said their early results for wastewater were promising to tarnish the coronavirus, which could possibly be used to identify it before some people feel COVID-19 symptoms.
“The analysis of effluent monitoring of infectious disease was applied earlier to monitor the polio virus,” said Keith Roper, a professor of biological engineering from Utah in a recent post. “For the first time, however, wastewater is being monitored using modern technology on a large scale during a pandemic.”
“It may not tell you who is infected in the building, but it will tell you if you have an infection there, and it can be useful from a public health perspective in terms of targeting your resources for clinical trials,” said Peter Grevat, chief executive. Director of the Water Research Foundation. “Having an effective way to identify whether the virus is present in the population or not can be very useful for a university or for community decision-makers at the public health level who are trying to protect people.”
The University of Minnesota is at a very early stage in their research.