Oh crap!: KZN lab detects traces of COVID-19 in sewage

Oh crap!: KZN lab detects traces of COVID-19 in sewage

A Hilton Lab has found traces of COVID-19 in sewage from some of the country's wastewater treatment works. 

GreenHill Laboratories

During the pilot phase of the project, GreenHill Laboratories tested sewage that consisted of faeces, urine and greywater from five wastewater treatment plants in Gauteng. 

It was spearheaded by Professor Anthony Turton from the University of the Free State. 

He says they wanted to see if the results could be used to identify COVID-19 hotspots. 

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Lab Director, Shaun Groenink says a separate company took samples every 15 to 30 minutes over a 24 hour sampling period. 

Groenink says the virus that was detected in the samples would have come from faeces.

"Of the five water treatment plant samples that we tested -  three of them we picked up a positive amplification for the SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Three of the samples had communities that were affected with COVID-19."

Groenink says these test results will allow them to monitor the total viral load in the country's wastewater treatment works.

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"We can't really say yet whether the virus that we do find in the wastewater is infectious or not. A report has now been submitted to the department of water and sanitation to roll out this project nationally. We will work partners across the country. 

"If you comparing different ways water treatment works, you can see the viral load increasing in one of the works, draw attention to that community and send healthcare workers there."

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