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Researcher Gets Grant to Study Wastewater

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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A civil engineering professor from the University of Arkansas has been awarded federal funding to study wastewater in regard to the spread of COVID-19.

Wen Zhang, associate professor of civil engineering, was awarded $40,000 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, to study wastewater to help community leaders better understand the prevalence of the disease in their area.

The Research

Zhang’s study not only focuses on collecting wastewater samples to test for evidence of the virus, but also seeks to develop a method of estimating spread of COVID-19 in communities based on the concentration of the virus found in wastewater.

ktsimage / Getty Images

A civil engineering professor from the University of Arkansas has been awarded federal funding to study wastewater in regard to the spread of COVID-19.

“Given the shortage of COVID-19 test kits, this can be particularly helpful to estimate the spread of the disease in a community, because asymptomatic individuals who are not tested could also excrete the virus and release them into wastewater,” she said.

“By detecting the virus in wastewater, we hope to utilize this information to estimate the most affected communities. It will provide information about the virus spread without testing every individual person in the community. And hopefully this information can assist the state and public to make future decisions combating the pandemic.”

The scope of Zhang’s project, which is already underway, is one year, and she hopes to have results this fall.

Previous Wastewater Evaluation

In May, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that its researchers would be engaging in research practices to help states, tribes, local and territorial governments, and public health agencies in reducing the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Preliminary research has indicated that monitoring wastewater for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 may be useful as a sensitive early indicator of an infected community. Due to this discovery, the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have begun developing and applying methods for measuring SARS-CoV-2 levels in wastewater.

The wastewater monitoring would also be able to provide indications if a community was experiencing a decrease in infection levels as well and hopes to better understand potential risks from exposure to untreated sewage.

Also in May, researchers from the Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute announced that they had developed a new approach to monitoring regional levels of SARS-CoV-2.

Led by Professor Rolf Halden, who directs the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering and teaches in ASU’s School for Sustainability and the Built Environment, and Olga Hart, lead author of the new study and a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Health Engineering, the team has begun developing a new monitoring approach for the novel coronavirus, among other dangerous pathogens and chemical agents, in wastewater.

In their redefined method, known as wastetwater-based epidemiology, the researchers collect sewage samples so that clues can be analyzed over human health, and can even detect levels of coronavirus infection at both a local and global scale. The high sensitivity of the type of study is also reported to have the potential to detect the signature of a single infected individual among 100 to 2 million persons.

View all of PaintSquare Daily News' coverage on COVID-19, here.

   

Tagged categories: COVID-19; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; Research and development; Safety; Wastewater Plants

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