Christophe Ketels / COMPAGNIE GAGARINE

Can sewage warn communities of imminent surge in coronavirus?

Traces of coronavirus in Leuven sewage reveal the scale of the problem in the city.  Analysis of the water from Leuven sewers has turned most districts of the city red on the map. The analysis of sewage shows how fast the virus has got the city in its grip.

Leuven University has tested the city’s sewage for some time.  Earlier analyses revealed the scope of the drug problem in the city.  Tests carried out only two months ago showed little trace of coronavirus.  Today sewage from most areas is testing positive for the virus.

In recent months scientists at the university have regularly been testing sewage and their results have been able to show when each district colours red on the map.  In districts that colour red many cases of coronavirus have been reported, but the scientists are unable to say from the sewage results whether the infection is gaining pace among students or the wider community. 

Coronavirus can be detected in sewage even before people test positive.  This means the results can help the city authorities to act early on and quell sources of the virus.

Researchers are currently trying to find out how soon before infections manifest themselves in the community traces of the virus can be detected so they can anticipate where infections will appear.  Such information could prove crucial is implementing preventative measures.   

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