Manhole cover for sewer, sewage. (Pixabay)

B.C. to begin to test sewage to find clues about where COVID-19 has spread

Health officials say pilot project has begun in Vancouver

As part of its search to detect the novel coronavirus in communities across B.C., the province has turned to an unusual place: sewage sampling.

Health officials said Tuesday (June 23) that the province was looking for the RNA, or the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, which caused COVID-19. The RNA from the virus can be shed in feces.

Part of the inspiration for the project, which is being worked on by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control along with other Canadian groups, comes from Italy. The country, which was among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, has tested sewage from December and found some samples tested positive for the virus.

Sewage sampling has been used to detect other viruses, like polio, and officials believe it could serve as a method to detect traces of the novel coronavirus especially in B.C.’s smaller communities.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said it was “another surveillance tool” to detect the presence of the virus.

So far, the project has been piloted in facilities in Vancouver, where it will test sewage both in that city and from parts of Surrey. No traces of the virus have been found in these samples so far, which health officials said could be a reassuring marker of how little COVID-19 there is in the city.

READ MORE: Testing wastewater could give early warning of second wave of COVID-19


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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