COVID-19 sewage tracking system supported by UKRI-funded research

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23 October 2020

  • A government-led project is providing an early warning of coronavirus outbreaks by monitoring sewage across the country
  • Studies supported by NERC, and funded by UKRI, are informing the project

Research funded by UK Research and Innovation is supporting a government-led project to detect coronavirus outbreaks by monitoring sewage.

The  project was first announced in June, has now proven that fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in wastewater. This can then indicate where a local community or an institution is experiencing a spike in cases.

A UKRI and NERC-funded research programme to support the sewage early warning system is being led by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH). 

The National Wastewater Epidemiology Surveillance Programme (N-WESP) is developing sampling, testing and scientific modelling methods.

In addition, a recently published paper by Professor Davey Jones of Bangor University, funded by NERC’s Covid-19 urgency grant, on the shedding of Covid-19 in faeces and urine and its potential role in person-to-person transmission suggests the likelihood of infection due to contact with sewage-contaminated water is extremely low or negligible.   

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