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Khalifa University researchers monitor SARS-CoV-2 levels in municipal sewage to track COVID-19 among general population

Khalifa University of Science and Technology announced Sunday that researchers from its Centre for Biotechnology and the Centre for Membranes and Advanced Water Technology, in collaboration with other stakeholders, are working on a project for the monitoring of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in municipal wastewater, as a method for the early detection and to track the spread of COVID-19 among the general population.

Studies indicate that people infected with SARS-CoV-2, including asymptomatic individuals, shed the virus through human waste. Since the levels of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater should mirror the number of detected infections among the population, testing a municipal wastewater sample will be tantamount to essentially testing everyone who has contributed to that sample in other words, this is a method of mass testing.

The experiments have been successful, demonstrating Khalifa University’s preparedness in supporting the country’s measures to fight COVID-19 through the monitoring of the virus in wastewater.

“Thanks to the wise leadership, the UAE has always supported scientific research activities meeting global standards at Khalifa University, in order to achieve the most innovative solutions, while initiating appropriate measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this research, Khalifa University aims to establish a monitoring system for COVID-19 in municipal wastewater streams, linking it with simulation models developed for predicting and controlling the spread of the pandemic, together with the health authorities,” said Dr. Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University.

The project is led by Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Assistant Professor, Chemistry; Dr. Shadi Hasan, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, and Dr. Habiba Alsafar, Acting Associate Dean for Student Affairs, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Associate Professor at the Department of Genetics and Molecular Biology, and Director of Khalifa University Centre for Biotechnology. Dr. Alfaro Lopes, Expert in Toxicology and Epidemiology in wastewater, is also collaborating with them.

Once further studies assess the levels of SARS-CoV-2 found in the fecal samples of COVID-19 patients, scientists will be able to construct a model that estimates the total number of symptomatic and asymptomatic people, based on levels found in wastewater.