Last month, Massachusetts lab Biobot Analytics launched a partnership with Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital to use its technology pro bono to map and analyze the spread of the virus through wastewater.
The lab previously has helped U.S. municipalities similarly track the prevalence of opioid use. The coronavirus mapping campaign represents one of at least two such projects nationwide currently analyzing sewage data for COVID-19.
Based on wastewater data from a lab in Somerfiled, announced findings from an unidentified large metropolitan area during a week in late March, Biobot gave an estimate of anywhere from 2,300 to over 115,000 infected persons within the area while only 446 cases had been reported in this area.
While the estimate had a very wide range, it was the discovery that there were likely many more infected people than revealed by numbers based on COVID-19 clinical testing alone that set off alarms.
Researchers said that theirs is the first study to estimate the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus based on the levels of SARS-CoV-2 quantified in sewage. The findings were published this week on the online archive medRxiv, which collects reports yet to be certified by peer review.
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