But because they were set to take samples from the urban sector by sector, they were able to shift gears and start sampling wastewater for evidence of coronavirus.
“We were ready for that,” Inchausti told CNN.
The city now regularly takes sewage samples to monitor the pandemic. And things don’t look good in parts of Tempe.
And they don’t look good in Boston, Reno, Nevada, or many other cities in the country.
Since the daily number of coronavirus is 70,000, measured by standard testing, sewage testing suggests that things will get much worse.
“This is a leading indicator,” Incausti said. “The proof is in the poop.”
Across the country, cities and universities are testing sewage to monitor the virus. Studies show that this is a useful way to increase standard human-to-human coronavirus testing, and although the wastewater sample may not point to an infected person, it may indicate that infections are circulating in an area, neighborhood, or even in an area. separate building.
At the beginning of the pandemic, it became clear that the Covid-19 virus penetrates the digestive system and can be found in human feces. From then on, it’s just a quick flush down the drain.
Mariana Matus, co-founder and CEO of Biobot Analytics, which analyzes wastewater for dozens of customers, said wastewater testing could show that the virus begins to circulate even before people start appearing in hospitals and clinics and before to start queuing for the Covid-19 test.
“People start shedding the virus pretty quickly after they’re infected and before they start showing symptoms,” Matus told CNN.
“We are seeing an increase in wastewater data, which I think largely coincides with what we are seeing across the country,” Matus said. “It was interesting to see this almost second wave.”
Massachusetts still has a low percentage of coronavirus tests that return positive at 1.5%. But the growing number of positive sewage hits indicates that more positive tests are yet to come, Matus said.
“I think that’s pretty good evidence that we need to pay attention. Communities need to pay attention,” said Matus, a biologist who started the company with a small group of colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The small launch is overwhelmed with requests to test wastewater systems, she said. “Who doesn’t love the poop story?” Matus asked.
Testing wastewater for evidence for Covid-19 is like forecasting the weather, said Krishna Pagila, chairman of civil engineering at the University of Nevada, Renault and director of the Nevada Water Innovation Institute.
“It’s something we had to focus on from the beginning in every community,” Panilla told Renault to CNN.
The coronavirus breaks down fairly quickly after washing. Wastewater testing does not recover the entire virus, but instead removes two specific pieces of viral material called RNA. It can no longer infect humans, but it is easy to identify.
Finding this RNA in the sewer tells researchers that someone infected is using the system. The more RNA there is, the more people are infected.
“We will know a few days in advance. We can inform the health authorities,” Pagila said.
This is especially useful in a college town, Pagila said
“People are reluctant to be tested now,” he said. “Or we have students who say, ‘Hey, I have symptoms, but I’m going to hang out at home.’ They do not get seriously ill, so they are not tested. But then they might decide to go to the gym. “
In Tempe, Inchausti said the city uses the information even more directly.
“The connection is never just to have the data, to look at it and say it’s good,” she said.
One, designated Zone 6, touches the campus of Arizona State University. Its 8,100 inhabitants are largely low-income. When coronavirus RNA levels recently rose in the wastewater there, Incausti said, “we spent $ 15,000 smearing it with masks.”
“We met people where they are,” she added. “We found out they were going to the laundromat, so we helped them figure out how to be safe in the laundromat. We provided a Covid-19 saliva test at the school, in the neighborhood.” They are now analyzing the test data to see if the intervention has changed.
“I believe that what Tempe is doing is the right way to do it,” Pagila said.
Kresten Mansfeld says he believes this has changed the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The school coordinated saliva tests for campus residents with regular sewage monitoring conducted by students.
“They look at the data on a daily basis,” said Mansfeld, an environmental engineering assistant who typically studies how microbes interact with the chemicals that humans excrete in their waste.
The numbers fired in the weeks after students returned to campus in late August reached 130 positive PCR tests on Sept. 17. But they fell to only a few a day after the city and Boulder County imposed restrictions on college-aged residents that prevented gatherings of all sizes – even two – for two weeks. Officials backed down a week later when students complained about safety issues, allowing people aged 18 to 22 to travel in pairs.
At present, 18- to 22-year-olds are no longer restricted to any other age group in Boulder County.
Now the cases on campus are starting again, from one case on October 16 to five on October 22 and eight on October 26. But Mansfeld said the wastewater indicators look good. “Most sewers have negative tests,” he said.
Both Incausti and Pagila said they hoped state and federal officials would pay attention and start using sewage data to monitor the pandemic across the country as a whole – and respond.
“At present, point estimates of community-based contamination based on wastewater measurements should not be used,” the CDC advises.