A German research team has presented a new method for detecting corona genetic material in wastewater.
For the first time in Germany it has been shown that genetic material from Sars-CoV-2 can be detected in sewage treatment plants using modern molecular methods, the scientists said. In a region with many corona cases, the researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt and RWTH Aachen found many virus fragments in the wastewater, in a region with fewer cases, correspondingly less genetic material. In each of the nine samples taken in April, three to 20 gene copies were found per milliliter of water. Studies in the Netherlands and the USA had previously measured similarly high concentration values.
In the future, the procedure could serve as an early warning system in order to identify locally increasing case numbers in the catchment area of a sewage treatment plant at an early stage. The genetic material detected in German wastewater was classified as non-infectious, according to the study. Harald Horn, Professor of Water Chemistry at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, said im Deutschlandfunk (Audiolink), it is still worrying that traces of the virus have been found in the wastewater. While in Germany the wastewater is treated chemically, in other countries like Israel it is often used directly for irrigation in agriculture. There is therefore a risk that people and food come into contact with the virus via the sewage and the risk of infection is increased.