During this pandemic I kept hearing about the great work researchers are doing detecting SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater as an early warning of coming waves and new variants up to two weeks before the relevant patients show up in hospitals. From the politicians, at least in this country, we have warnings only two weeks after the hospitals begin to fill up, and measures are generally taken several weeks too late, making the problem worse.
So I had a look around at what is being done in the wastewater epidemiology of Covid-19, and how in some countries it informs the political measures, while in some others it clearly doesn't, even though the methodology and the data are available. Still not clear why some people don't want to heed the warnings when they arrive well in time to allow them to adapt, but it is kind of reassuring that there are very clear lessons here to be learned for the next outbreak of a zoonotic disease. Reading the warnings from wastewater, we can stop the next pandemic from happening. Might require different political leadership, however, at least in some countries I can think of.
As part of the special treatment for Covid related information, my feature has been available as an open access preprint for the last two weeks, but today it is officially out in the proper format, and still on open access:
Current Biology Volume 31, issue 06, pages R267-R269, March 22, 2021
FREE access to full text and PDF download
This is currently on open access as part of the general Covid-19 info policy from Cell Press. Should that change, it will become open access again one year after publication
Any problems with the link above, try the:
Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)
Samples taken from the raw sewage entering water treatment plants can be used to monitor the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The image shows aeration tanks at a water treatment plant in Upper Providence, Pennsylvania, USA. (Photo: Montgomery County Planning Commission/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).)