NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Tulane researchers are out with the first peer reviewed study in the U.S. which detected coronavirus in wastewater.
The findings could go along way in helping to identify where outbreaks are occurring so that steps can be taken to try and contain it.
A new study from Tulane shows an entirely different way to detect community spread of coronavirus, and Congress is taking notice.
Up to now, U.S. health officials have relied on community testing and so far in Louisiana, 1.2 million people have been tested with more than 110,000 positive cases.
But now Tulane and LSU researchers have concluded the first peer reviewed study in the U.S., which focused in on a detection method for coronavirus, studying treated and untreated waste water at two Louisiana treatment plants. It found two samples of untreated sewage, out of seven tests, which contained coronavirus.
“The rest were treated effluent and all of them were negative,” said Tulane’s Samendra Sherchan, Phd.
He says this new study, conducted between January and April provides a valuable tool for identifying which communities are experiencing an outbreak.
“We can locate hotspots. We can sample from manholes to monitor the emergence of this virus in wastewater,” said Dr. Sherchan.
And perhaps more importantly waste water testing could help state health officials take preventative measures if it reveals an outbreak is occurring in a specific area.
“Even when it’s decreasing we can ease out social distancing and other public health interventions,” said Sherchan.
Congress is now instructing the CDC, to step up wastewater testing.
“It has huge potential and it’s a promising tool,” said Sherchan.
He says wastewater testing should not eliminate the need for testing of individuals or contract tracing, in efforts to identify covid hotspots. But he says both methods are useful.