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Sewage can reveal COVID outbreaks, UK project finds

Fri, 23rd Oct 2020 00:01

LONDON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Traces of COVID-19 can be
successfully detected in sewage, helping to give health
officials an early warning of local outbreaks of the virus, the
British government said on Friday.

A project, originally launched in June, has now proved that
fragments of genetic material from the virus can be detected in
waste water, indicating if a local community or institution is
experiencing a spike in cases.

The government said this would allow health officials to
identify large outbreaks especially where there were carriers
not displaying any symptoms and to encourage people to get
tested or take precautions.

"This is a significant step forward in giving us a clearer
idea of infection rates both nationally and locally,
particularly in areas where there may be large numbers of people
who aren’t showing any symptoms and therefore aren’t seeking
tests," Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

The sewage-testing project has been working successfully in
southwest England and has now been extended to 90 wastewater
sites covering 22% of England, the government said, adding it
aimed to expand it in future.
(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

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