Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) examination is used to determine illicit drug users across the globe, and researchers from China's Geochemistry Institute and Cranfield University claim that the technique could be used to recognise COVID-19 in wastewater, which will help to trace and combat the virus.
The paper test separates nucleic acids of pathogens from wastewater samples by folding and unfolding in steps. SARS-CoV-2 is then distinguished through a biochemical reaction with preloaded reagents, which reveals a green circle for positive and blue for negative.
“Researchers from China's Geochemistry Institute and Cranfield University claim that the technique could be used to recognise COVID-19 in wastewater, which will help to trace and combat the virus. “
A Lecturer in Sensor Technology, Cranfield Water Science Institute, Dr Zhugen Yang, stated: “In the case of asymptomatic infections in the community or when people are not sure whether they are infected or not, real time community sewage detection through paper analytical devices could determine whether there are COVID-19 carriers in an area to enable rapid screening, quarantine and prevention. If COVID-19 can be monitored in a community at an early stage through WBE, effective intervention can be taken as early as possible to restrict the movements of that local population, working to minimise the pathogen spread and threat to public health. We have already developed a paper device for testing genetic material in wastewater, for proof of concept and this provides clear potential to test for infection with adaption. This device is cheap and will be easy to use for non-experts after further improvement. We foresee that the device will be able to offer a complete and immediate picture of population health once this sensor can be deployed in the near future.”