Local officials in Oregon, California, New York, Utah, Florida and many other places are collecting sewage samples to test for coronavirus, which experts say could allow for detection of hotspots for the disease before the diagnosis of clinical cases.
Researchers at Stanford are working on a technology that may be needed more than ever over the next decade, especially if new predictions are accurate. Researchers have recently warned of a potential mega-drought in the western United States – conditions so dry that our drinking water supplies could be facing historic pressures. Experts say keeping the taps flowing could require a patchwork of solutions, including potentially increasing the use of desalination, turning saltwater into drinking water.
Scientist have found an unexpected ally in the fight against COVID-19 — a tool so powerful, it might help zero in on coronavirus outbreaks before they happen.
It’s your poop.
The science of sewer surveillance, also called wastewater epidemiology, is being harnessed by the largest university in the county to help stay on top of COVID-19 cases among students.
And while San Diego is not actively using feces to try and predict COVID-19 hot spots, the city is participating in several studies to better understand this potential monitoring technique.
In hundreds of cities across the USA, scientists hope monitoring systems will provide an early warning if coronavirus infections reemerge as communities in some states cautiously reopen.
These monitors don’t rely on testing patients or tracing contacts.
All that’s required? Human waste.
Over the past few months, private companies and university researchers have partnered with communities to collect sewage at treatment plants and test it for the presence of the novel coronavirus. The results are reported to municipal governments and state health officials to help them monitor the situation.
Testing wastewater can reveal evidence of the coronavirus and show whether it’s increasing or decreasing in a community, said Ian Pepper, a professor and co-director of the University of Arizona’s Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center, one of the groups tracking the virus through different municipal sewage systems.
Scientists across the nation are examining Southern California’s poop — maybe even yours — with the hope of more quickly identifying COVID-19 hotspots and better preparing for future surges. The information could also signal when stay-at-home orders can be safely eased in specific communities.
Untreated sewage has been used for years to track viruses as well as to analyze opioid use by neighborhood. Now the race is on to determine whether it can serve as an early warning system for the new coronavirus, particularly since the small fraction of the population receiving swab tests cannot capture the breadth of asymptomatic infections.
“Testing of every individual is very difficult. But if you have 50,000 people in a community, you may be able to determine the prevalence by testing the wastewater,” said Sunny Jiang, a microbiologist leading a pilot project at UC Irvine to identify COVID-19 in sewage systems.
California regulators are seizing on a chance to study the public health effects of air pollution, as stay-at-home orders and drops in freight traffic related to the coronavirus pandemic have presented a unique research opportunity.
A two-decade-long dry spell that has parched much of the western United States is turning into one of the deepest megadroughts in the region in more than 1,200 years, a new study found.
And about half of this historic drought can be blamed on man-made global warming, according to a study in Thursday’s journal Science.
Scientists looked at a nine-state area from Oregon and Wyoming down through California and New Mexico, plus a sliver of southwestern Montana and parts of northern Mexico. They used thousands of tree rings to compare a drought that started in 2000 and is still going — despite a wet 2019 — to four past megadroughts since the year 800.
Scientists know that coronaviruses, including the SARS-CoV-19 virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, can remain infectious for days — or even longer — in sewage and drinking water.
Two researchers, Haizhou Liu, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside; and Professor Vincenzo Naddeo, director of the Sanitary Environmental Engineering Division at the University of Salerno, have called for more testing to determine whether water treatment methods are effective in killing SARS-CoV-19 and coronaviruses in general.
The virus can be transported in microscopic water droplets, or aerosols, which enter the air through evaporation or spray, the researchers wrote in an editorial for Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, a leading environmental journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the urgent need for a careful evaluation of the fate and control of this contagious virus in the environment,” Liu said. “Environmental engineers like us are well positioned to apply our expertise to address these needs with international collaborations to protect public health.”
Researchers from San Diego State University have adapted existing sensor technology that can detect fluorescence, enabling rapid detection of bacteria in water.
The team’s plan was to combine this technology with telemetry to transmit contamination alerts in real-time. This technology would be useful for water monitoring agencies and government authorities. It can be used on surface water and water treatment plants.
Across the United States, underground labyrinths of leaky pipes lose more than a trillion gallons of water a year — and the problem is mirrored around the world.
“It’s a huge problem, especially in the cities,” said Daniel Tartakovsky, a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University in California. Tartakovsky and his former student Abdulrahman Alawadhi from the University of California, San Diego have proposed a way to improve a traditional method of detecting these leaks.