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Sewage water used to detect COVID-19 at the University of Florida

Health officials at the University of Florida are turning to sewage water as a way to test for COVID-19 outbreaks.

The project is called Gator WATCH, which stands for wastewater analysis for tracking community health, and was started to monitor COVID-19 hotspots on campus.

Researchers have 28 strategic locations across UF’s campus where samples are continuously collected from manholes. Those samples are then tested for the virus and results are used to monitor campus transmission and outbreaks.

Environmental and Global Health Assistant Professor, Joseph Bisesi, is one of the researchers on this project. He said the goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

e can make those measurements and get our testing in there sooner than we may be able to identify it was he’s in sooner so they aren’t interacting with other folks and causing a potential spreading event or outbreak event,” said Bisesi.

The idea is that those positive test results give officials a better understanding of what areas need to quarantine or have additional testing provided.

Bisesi said their findings, so far, have been accurate with the university’s screen, test, and protect test results.

“We’ve actually been pretty happy with that because that’s really validated our approach, the fact that we’re getting good agreement between what we’re fighting in the wastewater and with the screen test to protect he has been able to find through their regular testing of the student body,” Bisesi said.

searchers began working on this project in May. Then, started testing at UF during the first week of classes to prepare for an increase in cases.

“Our thought process is that as cases start to subside here on campus this waste water-based monitoring is going to be a really valuable tool to try to identify small outbreaks of cases in different residence halls dormitories,” said Bisesis.

Researchers will continue using wastewater to test for COVID-19 and can even test to monitor other community health factors like pharmaceutical and drug use.