Sewage sensors are being modified to give early warnings of COVID-19

April 7, 2020

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is focused on analysing the contents of our sewage to better understand human behaviour and public health. For example, the presence of certain metabolites in sewage samples could indicate the prevalence of illicit substance use in communities. WBE technology has become a very valuable tool for many authorities around the world– UK scientists are now devising remote paper sensors, that could be installed at treatment plants, to help monitor outbreaks of COVID-19.

Dr. Zhugen Yang from Cranfield University’s Water Science Institute is using cutting-edge biomedical and chemistry techniques to build cheap, paper-based sensors that can sift the contents of samples more efficiently and detect traces of pathogens that cause outbreaks of diseases, early on.As they are folded and unfolded, the sensor filters the nucleic acids of pathogens, which will react with preloaded reagents to reveal the presence of certain infections; the results can then be seen with the naked eye. Previous research has shown that a virus can be isolated from the faeces and urine of infected people and survive – for days – in the right environment.

Once complete, the modified sensors would be placed at treatment plants to pick up biomarkers of COVID-19 in faeces and urine. These will be easy to use for non-experts as well.

“Real-time community sewage detection through paper analytical devices could determine whether there are COVID-19 carriers in an area to enable rapid screening, quarantine and prevention,” said Dr. Yang.

“If COVID-19 can be monitored in a community at an early stage through WBE, effective intervention can be taken as early as possible to restrict the movements of that local population, and minimise the pathogen spread and threat to public health.”


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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