Sputnik: How can wastewater be analysed in order to predict future Coronavirus outbreaks?
Davey Jones: What we are doing at the moment is sampling wastewater, and we are looking for fragments of the virus in the wastewater, which is the RNA, and we are measuring that and quantifying it, so that we know exactly how many bits of RNA that we have in the virus.
We know that people before they become infected have the virus for about four of five days before they show symptoms, or possibly longer, and they will have shed the virus in their faeces, so we know that people are shedding it in respiratory droplets and that can pass from one person to another through direct contact and from surfaces.
A lesser known fact is that we also shed it through faeces, so basically it goes through the sewage network, then to a wastewater treatment plant, and the wastewater treatment plant collects all of the effluence from all of the households in the community, and basically we just sample that, and measures just how much viral fragments are there.
Sputnik: What is the overall aim of the wastewater study and sampling programme?
Davey Jones: The masterplan is that before we end up with cases in hospitals; which may be several days after people become infected, or even up to fourteen days, it gives us sort of an early warning system, that is the current thinking.
Sputnik: Do you think that the British Government will roll out a waste testing programme in its bid to combat the spread of the Coronavirus?
Davey Jones: Certainly the devolved nations are likely to do it. Scotland have already started a programme through the University of Edinburgh, and it looks like Wales will also be doing a similar sampling and monitoring programme.
We are already running the Welsh programme to look at this, but it is only in certain areas of Wales and not covering the whole nation, and it’s likely that Westminster will roll it out in the rest of England, over the next few weeks.
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