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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.