Researchers, Karachi, sewage water, Covid-19 presence

Researchers to test Karachi’s sewage water for Covid-19 presence

Public health researchers are working on a pilot project according to which sewage water in Karachi will be tested for the presence of coronavirus and its concentration.

As per a statement issued by the Agha Khan University (AKU) Tuesday, the World Health Organisation’s Pakistan office, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and infection disease epidemiologists from the AKU will collaborate on the project, said a report.

The project will test wastewater samples for the presence of coronavirus and its concentration. Sewerage surveillance systems have previously been set up in countries such as the US, Australia, Canada and other European nations.

These systems have helped detect high concentrations of the virus in sewage a week to ten days before cases would rise, enabling public health authorities to take prompt action to contain the spread of the disease.

Sewage surveillance systems take advantage of the fact that the presence of viruses can be identified in sewage before a person shows symptoms.

For example, people can shed SARS CoV-2 in their stool in the first three to seven days after infection, long before a person begins to suffer from a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

This means that wastewater sampling has the potential to act like a sensitive, early warning system for trends in new cases and a potential way to prevent new cases. That’s because nasal swab tests, which detect the presence of the virus in the nose, are typically only taken after symptoms appear, between seven and ten days after infection, which means that people could have unknowingly been spreading the disease for days before their positive test.

Researchers will analyse the amount of SARS CoV-2 particles per millilitre of filtered sewage to estimate the number of cases in the area. They hope to generate data that will help them estimate the future number of cases in a well-demarcated catchment area by measuring viral concentration in sewage samples.

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