Covid-19 mutants were found in sewage, weeks before they appeared in screening tests

Covid-19 mutants were found in sewage, weeks before they appeared in screening tests

Researchers in the US state of California were able to extract copious data from toilet faeces, as scientists were able for the first time to detect certain mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in sewage weeks before they appeared in testing centers, says Rob Knight, Microbiologist at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author of the study, which was published in the journal Nature July 7: The data from the wastewater revealed “successive waves of different viruses.” Knight says that this approach can be used in the future to discover emerging mutants and develop public health responses. “When the next breed appears, we’ll be ready for it,” said Knight.

Research groups around the world have used an approach sewage control To discover the “SARS-Cove-2” virus, however, these processes only monitored the presence and quantity of the virus, which is the data that was later used to estimate the spread of the virus among a group, but efforts to determine the quality of the circulating mutant and the extent of its spread remained limited, as a result of Unreliability of the available data.

To overcome this obstacle, the UCLA research team developed a nanosphere-based method to increase the amounts of viral RNA that can be sequenced after extraction from wastewater samples. Previously used methods did not allow scientists to sequence more than 40% Of the viral RNA in a single sample, however, relying on nanospheres enabled researchers to analyze the sequence of about 95% of it, and the team also devised a tool called “Freyja” to determine the quality of the mutations in each sample, and the percentage of their presence.

sewage samples

It took scientists nearly a year to test this method; They collected samples from a sewage treatment plant in San Diego that treats the wastewater left behind by nearly 2.3 million people. Data collection began in February 2021. Scientists also collected wastewater from sewers and sewers in more than from 130 locations on the UCSD campus over a ten-month period.

Thus, the researchers were able to monitor the “Alpha” and “Delta” mutant of the Corona virus in wastewater about two weeks before the appearance of these two strains in swabs and examinations inside medical centers, and they also monitored the “Omicron” mutant before the discovery of its first infection in San Diego. By about ten days, they tracked the rise of the Omicron BA.1 mutant among the townspeople.

Researchers have been discovering large amounts of alpha and delta and the lesser-known epsilon, most cases of which have been detected in the United States, on campus. This was strange. Because those mutations nearly disappeared in medical exams for weeks, according to Joshua Levy, an applied mathematician at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., who co-authored the paper.

It is not yet clear how effective this approach is in tracking the rapid spread of BA.4 and BA5, says Anna Maria de Roda Hausmann, an infectious disease researcher at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Belethoven. 5 of the “Omicron” strain, which are difficult to distinguish so far.

Fung Tai, an ecologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, also adds that an early warning system to detect specific mutant is still a long way off, given that processing the results after collecting the sample takes about two weeks, Tai says: “If you If you want to devise a method that truly serves the public health sector, it has to have the ability to show results within days.”

But Knight says the research team has been able to reduce the time needed to analyze RNA sequencing in samples from weeks to days, which would be a “game changer”.

The article was republished after obtaining the necessary approvals, and it was Published for the first time On July 8, 2022.

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