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Right There in the Sewage

Scientists in the UK are monitoring sewage there for signs of COVID-19, which could provide early warnings of possible viral hotspots, the Guardian writes.

According to the Guardian, the Environmental Monitoring for Health Protection Program opened a new lab outside Exeter to test sewage for SARS-CoV-2. Samples from wastewater treatment plants from around England arrive there each morning for testing, it adds, noting that the analysis isn't precise enough to say how many people in a region may have COVID-19 but gives a general idea of whether case numbers are going up. This, the Guardian notes, can inform decisions to boost community testing.

"It is like taking a stool sample from a collective bowel," James Trout, who oversees the lab, tells the Guardian.

In the US, wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 has similarly been adopted by some cities and universities.

The Guardian adds that the approach could further be expanded to monitor for SARS-CoV-2 variants as well as for other infectious diseases like influenza or norovirus.

The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.