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CDC adopts wastewater testing as newest public health tool

Posted at 8:23 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 21:23:43-05

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The CDC is now adopting wastewater surveillance for information on COVID-19 trends.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M virologists and researchers have been ahead of the game conducting this study now for over a year.

The Texas A&M global health research complex (GHRC) state of the art equipment has supported this study. Sewer water can, strangely enough, share important information about viruses.

"You can get a real good population-level sample of what’s going on in a place by looking in the sewers," said Dr. Ben Neuman, a Texas A&M Virologist. "Yeah, weirdly enough and so that’s the idea and see roughly how much of this virus there is,”

With concerns of yet another variant known as Ba.2. These virologists say this study can help get ahead of it.

“If it’s here it’ll both go up people's noses and then down into their intestines and you will see it popping out in the sewers probably before you see someone show up at a doctor's office showing up with a positive test,” added Neuman.

Getting this data early can also help hospitals prepare to treat more patients if it looks like they could be overwhelmed as they were with Omicron.

”If we’re paying attention to that data as it comes in you know then that can help us anticipate you know another surge or an increase in hospitalizations so that way we can ensure that we have the supplies and staffing to take care of the patients,” said Dr. Jason McKnight, primary care physician and population health expert.

According to the CDC, there are 12 variants being monitored but Dr. Ben Neuman says even with those 12 there are variations.

“I think the interesting thing that we’ve got from sequencing some of the samples around here, is that our omicron is not the same as anybody else's omicron,” shared Neuman.

Dr. Neuman says a new emphasis on wastewater surveillance and the evolution of this technology can help mitigate future viral infections.

“I think this is something that can be done on a widespread scale and right now this technology is in its infancy the wastewater has all kinds of information in it,” explained Neuman.

The CDC says their wastewater surveillance has detected approximately between 40 and 80 percent of people with COVID. Now more than 400 sites across the country are participating in wastewater surveillance efforts.