Spread of coronavirus can be detected early in sewer system; RIVM intensifies research
The RIVM announced on Saturday they will be doubling their efforts to trace the coronavirus in the sewer system. Signs a person became infected with coronavirus can be found in their feces before the person shows any symptoms. Frequent sampling of the sewer systems can help the GGD trace the spread of the coronavirus.
The RIVM said that starting in Fall, they will be taking samples from the sewer system three to four times per week instead of one to two. “The more often we measure, the sooner we will be able to see if the spread of the virus increases or shrink”, researcher at the RIVM Ana Maria de Roda Husman said to the AD.
The public health agency began testing for the coronavirus in the sewer system on a small scale in February 2020. Research has since then been increased to include over 300 sewer treatment plants.
The spread of the coronavirus is also determined by the number of positive coronavirus tests and the number of Covid-19 patients that were admitted to hospital. When in the future the number of hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients decreases due to more people being vaccinated against the disease and testing capacity falls as well, sewer samples offer an alternative to measuring the spread of the virus. It is also possible to detect new variants based on the sewage samples.
“We have a lot of experience in tracking viruses in the sewer system and also in the sewage facilities to which nearly all 17 million households are connected. Thereby, we can keep potential outbreaks in check in the Netherlands”, De Roda Husman said. The Netherlands also advised the European Commision sewage sampling in other countries in the fight against the coronavirus.
Prior to the pandemic, the RIVM also conducted research in the Dutch sewer system to determine the resistance against anti-biotics.