Audio Interview

Predicting COVID-19 outbreaks by measuring SARS-CoV-2 RNA in sewage sludge

Published on August 17, 2020   15 min

Other Talks in the Series: Research and Clinical Interviews

Interviewer: Professor Jordan Peccia, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with us today to discuss novel and ingenious ways of predicting future COVID-19 outbreaks, and also the means of anticipating their resulting public health responses. Let me start by asking about your recently published work, which showed the possibility of testing local sewage water for levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA as markers of impending outbreaks. Can you explain a little bit about how this is measured and what you have found? Prof. Peccia: We're able to measure the virus that causes COVID-19, which is called SARS-CoV-2 in sewage, in a similar manner to the way that the virus is measured if you go in to take an individual test to see if you're infected or not with the virus. The name of the test is called a Reverse Transcriptase Quantitative PCR Assay. What that does is it detects the very specific parts of the viral RNA in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We're not only able to detect that virus specifically, but we're able to quantify the concentration of the virus in the sewage. Now we aren't able to quantify whether it's alive or whether it's dead, just whether the DNA, or rather the RNA in this case, is there. When we did so in the sewage sludge in Southern Connecticut in the city I live in which is called New Haven, we were able to determine that as the cases rose, we were also able to see that the viral concentration rose. Now that we're on the other side of the outbreak and the cases start to decline,

Predicting COVID-19 outbreaks by measuring SARS-CoV-2 RNA in sewage sludge

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