Northumbrian Water has been working with UK and Spanish researchers to develop methods to estimate regional prevalences of Coronavirus through sewage monitoring.
The study is looking at non-infectious genetic residues of the virus that remain in wastewater systems to be able to estimate local concentrations of people infected with or carrying the virus and potentially link levels back to human population numbers. The findings could reveal infection hot spots and make early interventions to arrest the spread of the disease possible.
One of the co-leaders of Newcastle research, Professor of Ecosystems Engineering at Newcastle University, David Graham, said: “Our work here is to develop local solutions, but also to assist global efforts, by developing tools for predicting spread at a much earlier stage.”
He added: “Without the capacity to test each person individually, particularly people without symptoms, we have limited information about how widespread the virus is or whether it is affecting some communities more than others.”
Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater director Richard Warneford said: “Our wastewater teams are working with their engineers and scientists to safely gather and analyse data and we’re hoping that together we can help make a difference in the battle against COVID-19.”
The research is funded by the UK’S Engineering and Physical Sciences Council and co-led by Professor Graham and Dr Marcos Quintela-Baluja at Newcastle University, with Professor Jesus Romalde in Santiago. Northumbrian Water and Suez subsidiary, Labaqua, are water industry partners in the project. Similar projects looking to address the Covid pandemic are underway around the world.