The breakthrough was made by scientists at the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who collected sewage samples from two treatment plants and took them to the lab for chemical analysis. This led to the discovery of RNA fragments of SARS-CoV2, the virus that gives rise to the disease COVID-19.
"The wastewater samples were analyzed for specific nucleic acid fragments of the virus using RT-PCR analysis, which is used to identify a gene fragment from SARS-CoV2," says UQ's Professor Kevin Thomas. "The presence of SARS-CoV2 in specific wastewater samples was then confirmed using sequencing techniques."
This proof of concept is seen as a promising first step toward an early warning system to track the spread of COVID-19 through the community.