Researchers from the University of Chemistry and Technology, along with the Prague Water Supply and Sewerage Company, claim to have developed a method that predicts when the next wave of COVID-19 will hit based on analyzing wastewater. They are also working on using wastewater to confirm testing data.
Jan Bartáček, one of the researchers working on the project, said that humans usually excrete COVID-19 from their feces a few days before exhibiting symptoms, making wastewater a useful metric for monitoring the spread of the virus.
“In most cases, humans begin to excrete the virus in their stools a few days before they feel sick… The virus can be detected in wastewater analysis, which works on the same principles as the PCR method that detects clinical specimens. However, it is a way of concentrating the RNA that allows the use of PCR in wastewater. The advantage is that you don’t have to depend on mass testing and how many people choose to be tested.”
This style of testing has been ongoing since the summer, with small batches being done in fourteen different spots on Prague’s sewage network, like the airport, universities, and hospitals.
“It turns out that data from wastewater correlate very well with what’s going on in the pandemic. In many cases, an increase in viral RNA matchup with numbers observed one to two weeks ahead of data from clinical trials published for Prague.”
The operation so far isn’t able to gather data at a level that could help the city accurately predict pandemic waves, so is currently looking for more funding and support to grow.