State Agencies, MU Collaborating On COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Project

A collaboration between the Department of Health and Senior Services, Department of Natural Resources and the University of Missouri is tracking wastewater to monitor COVID-19.

The Sewershed Surveillance Project collects samples from wastewater treatment plants across the state to monitor the virus and allow health officials respond to outbreaks.

According to the project website, genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 can be found in human waste even when the individuals have no symptoms.

Tracking the amount of viral genetic material (viral load) is an emerging method of monitoring the virus in communities.

Sewershed surveillance can’t provide the number of individuals infected, but the information could track the progression of the virus in communities and inform public health strategy.

There are 50 community water systems in Missouri that are participating in the project.

Missouri is one of the first states to initiate the testing, one of the largest scale projects in the United States.

Weekly samples are collected and filtered and processed in a lab. 

The viral genetic material is extracted and measured using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). 

According to the project, this PCR test is similar to the one performed on nasal swabs for the diagnosis of COVID-19.

Nasal swab tests try to detect whether the virus is present or not, while the wastewater PCR test measures the viral load.

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