COVID-19 wastewater surveillance technology

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Missouri-based company that developed a product called Concentrating Pipette began contracting with universities last year as it began last year to monitor COVID-19 in the wastewater dormitories.


What You Need To Know

  • Public health labs are using sophisticated devices for wastewater surveillance
  • Virus trends can be tracked by analyzing samples from sewage treatment plants
  • Variants can also be monitored with wastewater surveillance, but it is expensive

Labs can use InnovaPrep’s pipette product to concentrate samples for analysis from wastewater that is extremely diluted.

“Right away, we got lots of business testing for university all over the world, and then we started getting a lot of interest from other governments around the world like Australia and Canada and Europe, and that really picked up and was going well. ahead of United States public health, “said Ann Packingham, the company’s marketing and distribution director.

It took time, but public health agencies in the US now recognize the value of population-level monitoring of disease in wastewater, and labs are conducting this type of surveillance across the country.

This year, after new variants emerged at an unexpectedly fast pace, the federal government significantly increased its investment in surveillance, hoping that by making samples from sewage treatment sites, they could get an early indication of virus surges.

Dave Goad, senior scientist for InnovaPrep, said their product, which costs $ 14,500 for the instrument and about $ 18 per sample, allows laboratories to recover viruses from water samples where the virus has a very low abundance of dirty water.

“The whole idea of ​​the wastewater surveillance, it allows assessment of community infection levels several days before you actually have any clinical presentation signs,” he said. “It’s a really good indicator of infection across the community. Rather than relying on individual testing and things like that, it kind of gives a big picture view. “

Using a product like InnovaPrep’s Concentrating Pipette is the first step in the wastewater surveillance process, Goad explained. For example, in Ohio, labs are using InnovaPrep’s product to concentrate on a sample, then using kits from the German company Qiagen for PCR processes that extract RNA nucleic acid target for SARS-CoV-2.

Goad said variants can be identified through sequencing of wastewater samples, but it is expensive and not routine.

“It’s actually pretty powerful because it allows detection of variants before you see the clinical presentation of these variants, because not all samples are sequenced,” he said.

Packingham said public health officials are getting a less reliable picture of virus trends from testing because many people are asymptomatic and because home testing, which is often not reported, has become so popular.

State labs are now using wastewater data to guide decisions about whether to implement or recommend COVID-19 protocols.

“They’re really trying to keep tabs on, you know, what to do about masking, what to do about kids and the elderly and the immunocompromised based on what’s going on at a community level, and keeping track of the variants as they emerge. because they emerge very quickly and spread very quickly, “she said.

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