NEW YORK — Wastewater analytics startup AquaVitas said last week that it has partnered with the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a study to analyze wastewater across the US for SARS-CoV-2 viral elements.
Under the terms of the alliance, HHS will fund the procurement and testing of wastewater samples from water treatment plants of large and small communities nationwide. The first phase of the effort, which will last about six weeks, will analyze wastewater from up to 100 treatment plants serving about 10 percent of the US population.
Under a potential second phase, testing will continue for another nine weeks and include treatment plants in up to 42 states serving at least 30 percent of the US population.
AquaVitas, a spinout of Arizona State University, stands to receive up to $5.4 million in funding under the arrangement if both phases are completed, according to a company representative.
"Knowledge of changes in the rate of community infections are critical to inform the selection and duration of policies implemented to protect both the health of human populations and the economy," AquaVitas CEO Adam Gushgari said in a statement. "This partnership marks an important step forward in utilizing the chemistry and biology present in our built environment to obtain vital population health data through a noninvasive technique that protects individual anonymity."
According to HHS, wastewater testing predicts new COVID-19 cases five to 11 days before clinical testing identifies them.
As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues, wastewater epidemiology is increasingly being used to track the virus and potentially localize hotspots of infection, with a growing number of companies such as AquaVitas offering testing and consulting services.