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We monitor pandemic related news globally.

Sewage Sampling May Preview Virus Trends

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Sewage Sampling May Preview Virus Trends

Town of Beaufort wastewater treatment plant. Photo: M. May/UNC Research We see the numbers every day.

New cases. Percentage of the population that’s been tested. Presumed recoveries. Hospitalizations. Deaths.

This is how the nation is keeping its finger on the pulse of a pandemic with no definitive end in sight.

Results of those who’ve been tested for the coronavirus, known to scientists as SARS-CoV-2, lag. Not everyone who has the virus is getting tested.

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And the breakdown in which test results are reported — county-by-county and ZIP code — fail to reflect a detailed account of what the virus is doing in small cities, towns and rural communities.

What about the people out there who aren’t seeking testing because they’re not seriously ill, they’re asymptomatic, or they don’t get tested either because they do not have a medical provider or their provider does not have tests?

Research now underway in North Carolina aims to get a better overall picture of where and how the virus is being spread.Rachel Noble, a professor of marine and environmental microbiology at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Science in Morehead City, is heading a growing team of researchers tracking COVID-19 pathogens in wastewater.“What the research on the wastewater is intended to do is look at the amount of virus in the wastewater system knowing that when the virus gets into someone’s body, their body actually produces more of the virus, not only in their nasal passages and then their saliva, but they actually also produce more viruses throughout their gut,” Noble said. “It’s really, really important for people to realize that our research does not suggest that […]

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