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Poo to be tested for COVID-19

SCIENTISTS will soon be inspecting every last plop for COVID-19 traces in a new sewage surveillance program to be rolled out across Cairns.

The dirty work will be carried out by researchers from the University of Queensland and the CSIRO after the world's first successful trial of its kind was completed in Brisbane earlier this year.

A Cairns Regional Council spokesman said the State Government would oversee the wastewater monitoring project.

"Council has received a request from Queensland Health to allow samples to be collected from Cairns wastewater treatment plants as part of a statewide sewer surveillance program to detect COVID-19," he said.

The University of Queensland and CSIRO have been tasked with overseeing the Cairns sewage monitoring program.
The University of Queensland and CSIRO have been tasked with overseeing the Cairns sewage monitoring program.

 

"As part of council's ongoing commitment to safeguard the wellbeing of the community, council has approved Queensland Health's request and will provide support as required."

CSIRO researcher Dr Warish Ahmed said monitoring untreated wastewater could detect fragments of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Scientists trialled seven methods in the latest study to confirm the most cost-effective and rapid virus recovery process. The new system allows each sample of wastewater to be processed in 15-30 minutes.

The surveillance project should help authorities receive early alert of any second wave in Cairns.
The surveillance project should help authorities receive early alert of any second wave in Cairns.

"We will keep refining the virus concentration and detection methods to provide more sensitive and accurate results of the viral load in wastewater," Dr Ahmed said.

"This will provide information on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community so public health officials can have as much information as possible to manage an outbreak in a timely manner, " Dr Ahmed said.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said the method could help individual communities avoid a second wave of the pandemic.

"This unique monitoring breakthrough will ensure each suburb gets the medical support it needs so all of us, as a nation, can stay healthier," he said.

Queensland Health has been asked for comment.

 

POOVID-19 PLAN

Researchers will collect samples from the pipes that take toilet water to wastewater treatment plants.

Cairns has six treatment plants, at Smithfield, Aeroglen, Woree, Edmonton, Gordonvale and Babinda.

Positive results in any plant should make it easier to pin down new outbreaks to certain suburbs.

Originally published as Cairns poo to be tested for COVID-19



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