It's not just the droplets we spread from coughing, spitting, or sneezing that can spread viruses and the coronavirus in particular.
New research has pointed out that other bodily orifices also contribute to the management of the virus, as local health departments can use such waste to track, trace, and prevent viral outbreaks.
Finding signs of the virus in raw sewage days ahead of people overwhelming hospitals due to COVID-19 is what a number of researchers and tech startups are focusing their attention on these days.
Why look in sewage?
"You won’t be able to say precisely how many cases there are in a community, at least at this point," Peter Grevatt, president of the Water Research Foundation, said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "But you will be able to see when that signal appears and you’ll be able to see if it is changing in terms of an upward trend or a downward trend."
Monitoring sewage will become a way of monitoring virus outbreaks, as per what Grevatt explained in a virtual congressional briefing.
As testing for the virus is still limited in many parts of the world, researchers are turning to alternatives such as sewage observation. For instance, Khalid Alam, CEO of Stemloop Inc. said "We know we can detect SARS-CoV-2 in what comes into a sewage treatment plant. If we could test on a far larger scale — in hundreds or thousands of manholes at a time — we could begin to understand from a public health and an epidemiology perspective where these problems are at a more granular level."
It's not yet confirmed whether or not the virus is infectious in the actual sewage, although early tests point towards it not being so.