Sewage surveillance: Virginia Tech testing wastewater to track COVID-19 on campus

Sep 9, 2020

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech researchers are going underground to try to slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

“One of the beauties of going and looking at wastewater is essentially that we get a signal before people necessarily are obviously sick,” said Peter Vikesland, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech.

Vikesland’s team has been working on the sewage surveillance since early summer.

Daily tests on wastewater, mostly from residence halls, give them a snapshot of what’s happening in a population before anyone even shows symptoms.

“Anybody that’s infected with COVID is emitting this virus in their bodily fluids and essentially it goes down the drain and we have the ability to go and detect the RNA for the virus,” Vikesland said.

Catching COVID early and stopping the spread in its tracks is a strategy universities across the country are deploying, including UVA.

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