COLLEGE STATION, TX — Texas A&M University has been praised by top white house officials for their handling of the coronavirus on campus, but the work they are doing goes much further than just their random testing program or their COVID Operations and Investigations Center. They have also been testing the wastewater on campus for COVID-19.
“So, instead of looking at just the wastewater treatment plant we’re actually looking at 16 collection nodes across the TAMU campus so that we can get an idea as to how the COVID-19 virus is moving within each one of those nodes within our community,” Shawn Gibbs, Dean of Texas A&M School of Public Health.
In a collaboration with multiple partners, A&M has been able to sample 16 sewage sites on campus twice a week to test for traces of the COVID-19.
“We hired an outside firm who is helping us do a sample collection. The materials are then taken over to our Global health research complex. Our Global health research complex is then running analysis on the wastewater. They then provide that information to our epidemiology team. They then go in and compares that information to our known isolation, quarantine and recovery cases on campus,” says Gibbs.
Given the prior research on wastewater detecting viruses prior to the coronavirus pandemic, A&M hoped the testing would allow them to be able to make adjustments in real time before anyone became infectious.
“What we are seeing here on campus is it's a good barometer to where our infection rate is,” says Gibbs.
While the cities, Bryan and College Station, are not testing wastewater for traces of COVID-19, Gibbs says A&M’s testing alone has been beneficial for the University.
“With what we’re doing we are able to get a handle on and a better understanding of what’s occurring within our community as well,” says Gibbs
Texas A&M will continue to test wastewater in the Spring semester as the University continues to combat COVID-19 on campus.