UK scientists start sewage testing at 44 treatment sites for coronavirus

The scientists would
Scientists have started sewage testing at 44 wastewater treatment sites across England in a bid to monitor for fragments of coronavirus genetic material, according to a media report on Monday.

Scientists discovered early during the pandemic that infected people "shed" the virus in their faeces.

Further research concluded that wastewater sampling could provide a signal of a coronavirus outbreak up to a week earlier than medical testing.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the testing has begun at 44 wastewater treatment sites, the BBC reported.

A Defra spokesperson said the government was working with scientists, water companies and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The scientists would "monitor for fragments of coronavirus genetic material."
"The aim of this new research is to give us a head start on where new outbreaks are likely to occur," Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

"Sampling is being carried out to further test the effectiveness of this new science. Research remains at an early stage and we are still refining our methods," he said.

Dr Andrew Singer from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is one of the lead scientists on a UK project to develop a standardised test to "count" the amount of genetic material from the coronavirus in a wastewater sample.

He told BBC News: "We would like to have confidence in saying that when we have an increase in virus numbers in the sewage from week to week, there are higher number of coronavirus cases.

"That means we will be able to look for trends.... to see if the release from lockdown maintains infection levels or are things moving in the wrong direction."

The World Health Organisation has stressed that there is currently no evidence that coronavirus has been transmitted via sewerage systems.

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